Returning To Eastern Bosnia

Muniza Oprasic
Muniza Oprasic

Last month media in the Balkans reported that Muniza Oprasic, a 78-year old Bosniak returnee to Republika Sprska was ordered by a district court in Eastern Sarajevo which is in the RS entity to pay 10 000 euro to a Serb family who lived in her house as squatters in the village of Okruglo for about seven years until 2003. During that time Muniza Oprasic lived as a refugee. Oprasic who now lives of her pension, which is 320 Bosnian marks [160 euro] appealed to anyone who can help since she as an elderly returnee to that part of Bosnia and Herzegovina has no means to pay the fee ordered by the court. The Serb family sued Muniza Oprasic since they most likely had assumed that she would never return to her house and her village and therefore made renovations to the house for which they now expect to be compensated for.

Clearly shocked by the court´s decision Muniza said to reporters from BIRN that she didn´t understand how such a thing could happen. This was her home, and she didn´t understand what gave them the right to go into her home at all? Living there for seven years in her house while Muniza lived as a refugee away from her home. Now the Serb family wanted her to pay for renovations they had made on someone elses house. Since Muniza has no means of paying the large amount set by the district court in Eastern Sarajevo; the court decided to take it out of her  monthly pension, which is 160 euro. The court said that they will take half or maybe as much as 100 Bosnian marks (50 euro) which would be unberable for someone her age, given that she needs medicine and has bills to pay.  When BIRN talked to her she openly appeled to help from anyone who could help her…

According to Muniza this is the way returnees to Visegrad are being treated by the Serb-led authorities in that part of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Muniza´s village; Okruglo lies a few kilometers from the old town of Visegrad, in the past most famous for it´s old Ottoman era-bridge built by Mehmed-pasha Sokolovic and immortalized in Ivo Andric´s novel  Bridge on the River Drina, now infamous as the site of some of the worst atrocities during the Bosnian war. On 6th of April Visegrad was attacked by the Yugoslav People´s Army´s (JNA) Uzice Corps under the command of Dragoljub Ojdanic. Ojdanic later went on to become Chief of General Staff of the “reformed” Yugoslav Army (Vojska Jugoslavije) and was later found guilty for crimes against humanity, and sentenced to 15 years for his role in Milosevic´s Kosovo campagain. By April 14th 1992 his Uzice Corps had with the help of Serb paramilitaries, managed to take over the town installing a Serb nationalist government which proceeded to arrest and harass segments of the Bosniak and other non-Serb parts of the population. After the the JNA formally left the town on May 19th the systematic and wide-spread targeting of the town´s Bosniak community began, with arrests, disappearances, abduction of prominent local figures, executions carried out by local paramilitary units, setting up of detention camps, including the Uzamnica camp  where the inmates, both male and female subjected to physical abuse, including sexual violence. The turning of the hotel and spa resort Vilna Vlas into a rape camp where Bosniak women and girls were systematically raped by Serb police, paramilitary units and soldiers.

As well the mass executions of civilians all around Visegrad, some of the civilians were taken from their houses and rounded up, others abducted from their workplace, others taken off buses, and led to the banks of the river Drina where they were told to go into the water and executed by Serb paramilitaries or taken to ravines where they were executed and their bodies dumped into the ravines or pits. The mass killings in Visegrad also included two of the arguably most horrific cases of mass-murder early on in the war. First being The live pyre at Pionirska Street, where over 60 people were barricaded into a house which was later set on fire, 53 died. Killed by two men who are most likely Europe´s most well-known living mass-murderers; Milan Lukic and his cousin Sredoje Lukic. According to journalists who covered the war, and especially the butchery in Visegrad; the two men, especially Milan, probably killed more people during the Bosnian war than anyone else. Two weeks after they had burned 53 alive people on Pionirska Street, they repeated the act in a Visegrad neighborhood Bikavac where they barricaded another group of people into a house before setting it on fire. One person survived.

But the biggest execution-site was the old bridge itself. As Ed Vulliamy noted in the Guardian back in 1996; “the bridge is visible from almost every balcony and window in Visegrad, it´s cobblestones are a stage at the foot of an amphitheatre; the executions were intended to be as public as possible.” From their balconies witnesses watched as Milan Lukic in his red Passat together with his companions in the trucks behind would arrive at the bridge each evening. They would unload the prisoners and start killing them.  “We saw them by day or by the city lights, whether they were killing men that time, women or children. It took half an hour, sometimes more.” One witness recalled… The prisoners who were between life and death were stabbed before being thrown of the bridge into the river. According to one witness; sometimes they threw people off alive shooting at the same time.  Another witness, recalled how Milan Lukic enjoyed playing music from his car radio while throwing two men into the river; one of the men shouted that “he couldn´t swim” while Milan Lukic fired his gun into the river.

Visegrad, photo: Velija Hasanbegovic
Visegrad, photo: Velija Hasanbegovic

At the start of the Bosnian war, Visegrad and other places like it along the Drina Valley or Podrinje received a minimum of attention from the world press. What was happening in eastern Bosnia, all along the Drina Valley as well Prijedor, Kozarac, Sanski Most, Kljuc and other towns and hamlets in northwest Bosnia, and Bosanska Krajina was part of the hidden war that the Serbs were waging far away from the carnage taking place in Sarajevo. Karadzic could not keep Omarska, Trnopolje & Keraterm a secret for too long, but by then he had “cleansed” much of what was to be “Greater Serbia” of non-Serbs. As Vulliamy, one the chroniclers of the Bosnian genocide wrote in The Nation in June 1996, one of the middle-managers of genocide; Professor Nikola Koljevic a close associate of Radovan Karadzic, and wartime vice-president of RS as well as a Shakespeare scholar had said sardonically to him in the Serbian capital Belgrade 1992; “So you found them! Congratulations!  It took you a long time to find them, didn’t it? Three months! And so near to Venice! All you people could think about was poor, sophisticated Sarajevo. Ha-ha!” And then, as Vulliamy recalls, added with a chill in his voice: “None of you ever had your holidays at Omarska, did you? No Olympic Games in Prijedor!”

He was referring to the concentration camps in northwest Bosnia and the implication was clear: The dismay many felt about what was taking place in Sarajevo and the focus on the Bosnian capital meant that the Serbs were free to carry out their plans more or less uninterrupted elsewhere in the country. After the war Koljevic tried to commit suicide on January 16 1997 by shooting himself in the head and died in a Belgrade hospital a week later from the wounds. By then he had been edged out of the Bosnian Serb political leadership by Biljana Plavsic and Momcilo Krajisnik. Both Plavsic & Krajisnik were later convicted of war crimes by the ICTY.

By the end of June 1992, a Serb police inspector in Visegrad, Milan Josipovic recived a request from the the Bajina Basta hydro-electric plant just across the border in Serbia. The director of the plant asked Josipovic if those responsible could “slow down the flow of corpses” on the Drina river. According to the plant director; the corpses were clogging up the culverts of the Bajina Basta dam at such a rate that he could not assemble enough staff to remove them.

13 years later, Josipovic, who was then 48 years, was shot twice in the chest and once in the head while he was in his coffee-grinding shop. There have been speculations that he was killed by a shadowy group called Preventiva charged with protecting wanted war criminals, including Milan Lukic. In 2005 Josipovic testifed against Novo Rajak, a member of the Visegrad police who  had taken part in the mistreatment of Bosniak civilians. After that rumors started to circulate that Josipovic was ready to give evidence against higher-level officials and that may have sealed Josipovic´s fate. His killer/killers have never been arrested.

In 2010 a small boat got stuck in the turbines of the Bajina Basta hydroelectric power plant, in order for the turbines to be repared the dam had to be emptied. That gave people from Institute for the Missing Persons of Bosnia-Herzegovina what was in effect their last chance to track down the bodies of of Bosniak civilians who had been killed in Visegrad and dumped into the Drina River. As Irena Antic from the Helsinki Committee For Human Rights Serbia  pointed out;

Everybody knew that throughout 1992 bodies of the Bosniaks were ending up in the turbines of the Bajina Basta hydro-electric power plant, thrown there by executioners, Milan Lukic’s “Revengers” and members of other Serb formations, who believed no one would ever find them in such a place. No one – some working for the plant or in hydro-electric sectors of Serbia or Republika Srpska, or an official of that Bosnian entity or the neighboring state – had ever suggested that the Drina lakes or even its basin should be emptied in the search for the killed.

Antic went on to say that once the team from Institute for the Missing Persons of Bosnia andHerzegovina got to Perucac they were met with rough terrain, mines, cracked soil, snakes and piles of clay, as well as high temperatures in the summer and rain, mud and wind in September.  According to the director of the Institute, Amor Masovic; fifteen people from all over Bosnia and Herzegovina made up the investigative team. The team moved on foot down both banks of the lake. They started at the old bridge in Visegrad and moved along the canyon all the way to the lake. “It was a multiethnic team sharing the same goal” according to Masovic. The investigators were soon joined by a team from Serbia looking for the remains of Kosovars killed by Serbian State Security Forces during the 1998-1999 Kosovo war. After a while a survivor organization made up of survivors and relatives of those killed in Visegrad 1992, called; “Visegrad 92” made an appeal for help which lead to hundreds of volunteers from all over Bosnia and Herzegovina and some from Serbia as well showing up at the exhumation-site trying to help the investigators. The long list of volunteers included students from Sarajevo University, utility workers from Sarajevo and former citizens of Visegrad now living abroad and in other parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, many of them had lost loved ones during the massacres carried out by Serb forces in Visegrad area and for them this was the probably the last chance to maybe find the remains of their loved ones. Firefighters, speleologists, rangers, de-miners, and members of Bosnia´s special police forces helped too. In total the remains of 250 people were exhumed during those few months, needless to say, there was no help from the authorities in Republika Sprska who as Antic rightly points out were too afraid of the consequences draining the lakes on the border between Bosnia and Serbia might have, what might be found there, let alone draining the Drina basin, the bottom and the mud which most likely hides the largest amount of remains.

The remains exhumed at Perucac were just a small fraction of what lies beneath, together with the 126 citizens of Visgerad who were exhumed at the village Slap near Zepa back in 2000. The bodies found in Slap were gathered by the villagers as they floated down the river and buried in shallow graves. One of the people Vulliamy interviewed back in 1996 had escaped the carnage in Visegrad and found refuge in Zepa which was together with Srebrenica and Gorazde the only Bosnian-controlled enclave in eastern Bosnia. After Serb forces took Srebrenica in July 1995 they set their sights on Zepa which fell two weeks later after fierce resistance from the vastly outgunned and desperate Bosnian soldiers defending it. Vulliamy´s interview subject, then simply named “Jasmin R” was captured, in Serbia as were many men from Zepa as they tried to make their way to Serbia or Montenegro hoping to avoid the fate of those killed in Srebrenica. By Christmas 1995 Jasmin was evacuated to Dublin from a prison camp in Serbia. When he arrived in Zepa he was 14 and deemed too young to fight, he was instead assigned to Slap, a junction between the Drina and Zepa rivers. His job was to bring up the bodies of murdered civilians from Visegrad as the current flowed to Zepa. He was to bring them ashore in a small boat and bury them, often under fire from Serb forces. Jasmin and others, they dug the graves and buried the people gathered from the river, some of them Jasmin had known personally, they had been his neighbours in Visegrad. According to Jasmin; “the bodies came almost every day Men and women, old and young. They had been beaten and tortured, they were black and blue, and some had been decapitated. Yes, and there were children. Mostly 10 or 12, and two infants of about 18 months.”

During the trial of Mitar Vasiljevic back in 2001, Amor Masovic stated that by then the remains of 311 people belived to be from Visegrad had been exhumed from 14 different locations in Visegrad, Sokolac and Rogatica. Vasiljevic had been one of Milan Lukic´s closest companions. Before Masovic took the stand, another man who had worked on bringing up and burying the bodies floating down the Drina, Mevsud Poljo testified about bringing up about 170 to 180 bodies from the river together with others. Poljo belived that the bodies they pulled out of the Drina constituted maybe one fifth of the total number of corpses floating down the river. After they pulled the bodies out of the river they searched them for any form of identification before burying them, mostly at the banks of the small river Zepa near Slap.

Exhumations At Lake Perucac photo: Velija Hasanbegovic
Exhumations At Lake Perucac photo: Velija Hasanbegovic

Many of those Poljo, Jasmin and others didn´t manage to pull out of the water most likely ended up in the culverts of the Bajina Basta hydro-electrical plant.

A proper search would mean that a greater number of those killed in Visegrad and surrounding villages would be found. As it is now that is improbable as Serb-led authorities in Visegrad have done everything in their power to erase the memory of those atrocities, including an effort to destroy the house on Pionirska Street, the site of the live pyre that took the lives of 53 people. Re-built by survivors to serve as memorial to those killed it came close to being destroyed last year on the same day as Serb authorities in Visegrad erased the word genocide from a the Straziste cemetery. (A large number of those exhumed and identified from Visegrad and the surrounding area are buried there. ) As of today, the house on Pionirska still stands but that does not mean it´s not in harm´s way. The original date set for the destruction of both the house on Pionirska and the removal of the word genocide from the memorial on Straziste was December 24th 2013 Christmas eve, but due to the controversy this caused in Bosnia and the statements made by OHR, the US Embassy and OSCE the action was delyed, until one month later that is, when the Serb-led authorities in Visegrad finally entered the Straziste cemtery and removed the word genocide from the memorial to the fallen. They did not touch the house that time but there are reports that all final appeals to prevent the demolition of Pionirska Street house have been exhausted.

Muniza Oprasic faces a similar fate as the house in Pionirska Street. The original ruling came 2012, which she appealed and at the end of last month the district court in “Eastern Sarajevo” ruled that she had to pay 10 000 euro to the Serb family. Her story isn´t new but it´s indicative of the way returnees are treated in Republika Srpska.

After the original ruling back in 2012 she spoke to Bosnian media about the situation saying that she lived as a refugee in Sarajevo until 2003. The local Serb authorities had given the Serb family material to rebuild the house which had been damaged in the war.  The repairs were carried out without her permission. The Serb family lived there for years, while she had no access to her land and house. They sued her for the renovations that they had made to the house without her permission and that she and her husband were not aware of.  According to Muniza there was a ruling in her favor too, by which the Serb family was forced to pay a 100 KM or 50 euro to Muniza for every month that they had lived there on her property but according to her; she never saw a penny of that money. They refused to remove the windows, doors and some other things they had put in to the badly damaged house; instead they sued her for compensation.

When journalists from Al Jazzera Balkans visited her two years ago they found her living a humble existence in her house on her property in Okruglo. A picture of Mecca along with some Quranic verses adores her living room walls. She was orphaned during World War II. During the visit to Muniza journalists also spoke to Nedim Jahic, a human rights activist from Sarajevo who believes that the verdict against Muniza is absurd. Jahic said that if Muniza had returned to an empty house in 2003 she would have probably received donations and her house would have been renovated at no cost to her. She wouldn´t be facing the situation she is facing today, having to pay 10 000 euros to people who lived in her house at the order of local authorities.

Still, according to Hajro Poskovic, a legal expert with the OSCE in Sarajevo temporary users of abandoned houses have a legal right to be compensated for any repairs they make, but that the owner also has the right to be compensated from the local authorities, in this case the owner is Muniza Oprasic. Strictly legally speaking that would mean that Oprasic would pay the 10 000 euros to the Serb family and then seek compensation from the local Serb authorities who settled the family in Muniza´s house in the first place.

However Muniza Oprasic is a 78 year old pensioner with no other income except her pension which is 160 euros every month, she has no means of paying 10 000 euros and given the legal situation for returnees in Republika Srpska it is naïve to think that the she will ever be compensated from the Serb authorities in Republika Srpska. With the appeal process apparently exhausted, if she does not find the money, 10 000 euro to give to the Serb family she will most likely be evicted from her home.

Note: Irena Antic´s piece for Helsinki Committee For Human Rights referred to Milan Lukic´s paramilitary unit as the “Revengers” (Osvetnici) Most court documents in english as well as articles on Visegrad refer to them as “Avengers” as well as the Balkan Insight piece which claims that Muniza Oprasic is 71 years old, while all the Bosnian articles on her, including articles in Klix, Dnevni Avaz and Slobodna Bosna indicate that she is 78 years old today.

This post has been uppdated and edited on 12/03/2015

The trouble with John: Marko Attila Hoare on John Schindler´s Bosnia Genocide Denial

By now many of you have presumably heard or seen something about last week´s story about John Schindler, a professor at a US Naval War Collage who had sent pictures of his penis to a fan girl. Gawker, Daily Mail and ABC reported on it as well a flurry of comment on Twitter and other social media outlets. While it´s no crime for consenting adults to send each other pictures of their genitalia despite the fact that some might find it yucky/disgusting the subsequent reactions on Twitter did shine a harsh spot light on John Schindler´s behaviour on Twitter where he according to “constantly berets anyone who questions his claims, calling them “stupid” and refusing to advance the argument past endless appeals to his own authority  (the aforementioned PhD).” according to someone had taken notice of Schindler´s tactic’s and crafted a Tumblr blog with some of John Schindler´s greatest hits called “Schindler tweets” and while one must admit that screen caps of Schindler´s feeble attacks on those who question his claims are funny and very telling of the man´s inability to engage in proper debate it´s not nearly as funny as the fact that he had claimed that the blog, which only contains his own tweets is in fact; defamatory, in other words: John Schindler thinks that his own tweets are defamatory if used by someone else. Despite the fact that it´s simply his own words being imbedded in a blog.

In fairness to Schindler, few days after he had been put on leave by the Naval War Collage, pending an investigation by the NWR, he wrote a Mea Culpa on his blog saying that he had reviewed his “Twitter history” and “that  far too often he had been rude and dismissive of other people´s views” while one can wonder if his Mea Culpa is genuine or simply a response to being put on leave it did not stop his critics from pointing out Schindler´s  tendency to make strange unsubstantiated  claims, including a foray into Wikileaks/Snowden conspiracy theories as well as verbally abusing his opponents.

However his online antics pale in comparison to what came few days after the story broke about Schindler´s “penis pic” To those familiar with the Balkans it did not come as any surprise but it did further put into question John Schindler´s intellectual honesty or lack of it. A damning review of a book he had written on Bosnia, by British historian and Balkan Expert Marko Attila Hoare in which Hoare thru his in-depth knowledge of the region and the war as well as the subsequent genocide that took place in Bosnia and Herzegovina further showed that Schindler´s foray into conspiracy theories (see above) were not an accident and the level of the deception and revisionism he engages in is simply breath-taking.

The review started to circulate on Twitter and other social media due to the attention Schindler´s other antics had drawn and needless to say raised a few eyebrows. I contacted Dr Hoare and asked him for permission to re-publish his review and he agreed, what follows below is  Marko Attila Hoare´s full review of three books, including John Schindler´s. I spoke to Dr Hoare and he confirmed that John Schindler has never been able to answer to Hoare´s criticism despite the review being published in back in 2008.


Christopher Deliso, John R. Schindler and Shaul Shay on al-Qaeda in Bosnia

(This article was published in Democratiya, May 2008)

By Marko Attila Hoare

The role of al-Qa’ida and the foreign mujahedin in the wars in the former Yugoslavia of the 1990s remains controversial, but the controversy is not over whether the phenomenon was a positive one or not. Reading some of the coverage of the subject, one might be forgiven for thinking that the wars fought in Bosnia and Kosova were merely individual fronts in something much bigger: the global struggle between the warriors and opponents of radical Islam. Yet as is so often the case, it is the smaller, local struggle that is more bitter and protracted than the global one, and that inspires the greater loyalty and commitment. The recently published books by John R. Schindler and Christopher Deliso, Unholy terror: Bosnia, al-Qa’ida, and the rise of global jihad and The coming Balkan caliphate: The threat of radical Islam to Europe and the West respectively, are really books about the Balkans more than about radical Islam; and it is the rights and wrongs of the Balkan conflicts, more than the threat posed by radical Islam, that motivate the authors. Schindler and Deliso share a hostility to Islam and to the politics of Western liberal interventionism which goes far beyond any mere concern with the alleged Islamist threat in the Balkans.

Deliso’s thesis of a ‘coming Balkan caliphate’ embraces Bosnia, Albania, Kosova, Macedonia and Turkey. Deliso’s animosity in particular is directed against the Albanians, and he faithfully upholds anti-Albanian stereotypes popular among the Balkan Christian peoples. He writes of ‘the opportunism they [the Kosovo Albanians] have shown in siding at various times with the Turks, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Mussolini, Hitler, and, most recently, NATO’ (p. 51), thereby repeating the myth popular among Serbian nationalists, of the Albanians as stooges of repeated foreign invaders, though the Kosova Albanians’ record in this regard is absolutely no worse than that of other Balkan peoples. He attributes the emigration of Serbs from Kosova in the decades before 1999 to the fact that they were fleeing ‘from a culturally and socially incompatible land dominated by clan-based Muslim Albanians’ (p. 37). He complains of the high birthrate of the Balkan Muslims, writing ‘it seems that Muslims, already outright majorities in some countries and political “kingmaker” minorities in others, are still expanding and will thus continue to enjoy all of the political, social, and economic benefits that this position entails.’ And while Deliso recognises that the Balkan Muslim birthrate may eventually fall, he fears that ‘these processes take considerable time and may take effect only after it is “too late” for the Christian populations to avoid returning to their Ottoman status – that is, second class citizens in their own countries.’ (p. 113). Deliso also complains about mosques being too noisy, on account of the call to prayer from the minaret: ‘Although it is not terribly politically correct, the term “sonic cleansing” is an apt one to describe the process by which aggressively visible and audible Islam gradually grinds away at non-Muslims, who gradually move out of what become, essentially, ghettoes by choice.’ (p. 86) shay2

Deliso makes many sweeping statements about the dangers allegedly posed by the Balkan Muslim peoples, which are then refuted by his own account. Hence, he writes that ‘the most fundamentally surreal dimension of the West’s Balkan misadventures must be that specific policies have directly benefited Islamic fundamentalism, as attested by the Western support for Muslim-dominated secessionist movements and paramilitaries with demonstrable ties to terrorists and mafia groups in Bosnia, Kosovo, Albania, and Macedonia’. Indeed, it is self-determination and democracy that are themselves apparently to blame for the alleged Balkan Islamist threat: ‘Ironically, the creation of liberal democracies in docile, pro-Western nation-states also enables the rival development of radical Islam within them.’ (p. 143)

However, throughout his book, Deliso mentions that the fundamentalist version of Islam, as put forward by the Wahhabites, was rejected by ordinary Muslims in Bosnia, Kosova, Albania and Macedonia and by their political leaders, and was out of keeping with their native tradition (e.g. pp. 54-55, 58, 84-85). In one passage, he describes bearded Islamists in the Kosovar town of Pec attacking Albanians holding a candlelit vigil to mourn the American victims of 9/11 (p. 60). Deliso’s account of the aggressive way in which the Wahhabite movement is attempting to penetrate the Balkans, and the lack of receptivity on the part of native Muslims to it, is not uninteresting or uninformative. This is an important subject, and it is a pity that it is drowned in a sea of unsubstantiated propaganda directed against the Balkan Muslims and against Western policy, propaganda which his account of Wahhabite activities actually undermines. For why should self-determination for Muslim peoples, or their high birth-rates, be a problem if they anyway popularly reject radical Islam?

Deliso manages to overcome such contradictions and construct his bogey of a ‘coming Balkan caliphate’ through multiple conflation. He conflates nationalism with religious chauvinism; moderate Balkan Muslim national leaders with the radicals operating in their midst; Sunni al-Qa’ida with Shiite Iran; al-Qa’ida with the regimes of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates; quiet Saudi Wahhabite proselytising with al-Qa’ida terrorism – all these diverse, conflicting elements are thrown together to make a single indeterminate green Islamic stew. Thus, we get passages such as this one, concerning the involvement of the Islamic world in the ‘Bosnian jihad’ of the 1990s:

According to a former Sudanese intelligence agent, Osama bin Laden’s operations in Sudan during the early 1990s involved an “advisory council” made up of some 43 separate Islamic groups, contraband arms depots, and several terrorist camps. Since the Saudi government preferred to keep its hands clean, supplying mostly money and logistical supplies, Iran would play the key role in importing the fighters and military equipment through the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the national intelligence service, SAVAMA… Weapons shipments from Iran via Sudan, overseen by intelligence officials of both countries and utilizing al Qaeda-linked charities like the TWRA, also picked up in 1993 and 1994. (pp. 8-9)

Out of this stew, Deliso draws multiple non-sequiturs, such as this one:

…Alija Izetbegovic’s single dream was the creation of an Islamic state in Europe. This vision was honored in December 2001, when he was awarded one million dirham ($272,480) prize for his services to Islam by the Crown Prince of Dubai. Only two months earlier, however, the terrorist attacks on America had revealed how complicit he and his government had been in allowing al Qaeda to expand in Europe, through the Bosnian jihad.’ (p. 5).

Or this one:

…the Clinton administration was planning for a second war to save yet another allegedly endangered Balkan Muslim population, this time the Albanians of Kosovo, and thus could not openly admit that it had already made a huge mistake in Bosnia – despite a reality of increasingly spectacular Islamic terrorist attacks against American interests globally, like the June 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia and the East Africa embassy bombings of August 1998. (pp. 10-11).

As the reader will note, the various assertions of motive and causality in these two passages are neither substantiated with evidence nor support each other, while the assertion that al-Qa’ida attacks in Saudi Arabia, East Africa and New York were the result of the ‘Bosnian jihad’ is completely out of the blue.

Deliso conflates the mainstream Bosnian Army struggle against Serb and Croat forces with the activities of al-Qa’ida and the foreign mujahedin to create a single ‘Bosnian jihad’, ignoring the fact that existing works on the Bosnian Army and the mujahedin, by authors such as Evan Kohlmann, Esad Hecimovic and myself have comprehensively demolished the case for such a conflation. Yet Deliso admits that it was the police of Izetbegovic’s supposedly ‘Islamist’ state that arrested a terrorist cell on 19 October 2005 that had allegedly been planning to blow up the British Embassy in Sarajevo (p. 14). He interviews a military intelligence analyst who tells him that, apart from the US embassy, ‘nearly all diplomatic facilities in Sarajevo lack even the most rudimentary protection against attack… all the others remain vulnerable to truck bombs or determined individuals wearing suicide vests’ (p. 23), making the failure of the Islamists to carry out a single successful terrorist attack against a Western target in the supposed Bosnian centre of world jihad all the more remarkable. Even Deliso’s questionable ‘expert’ witnesses admit that Islamist terrorist training camps ‘mostly don’t exist’ in Bosnia (p. 161). The facts simply do not fit Deliso’s thesis. In scraping the bottom of the barrel to find some that do, he complains that ‘Bosnian President Sulejman Tihic assured a gathering of dignitaries in Qatar that his country considered the American occupation of Iraq illegal’, something that Deliso attributed to the ‘Islamic factor’ in Bosnian politics (p. 22). But an ‘Islamic factor’ was scarcely a prerequisite to considering the Iraq invasion to be illegal.

Deliso draws upon some highly dubious sources in support of his thesis about the importance of Bosnia in the development of the global jihad. One such is ‘terrorism expert’ Darko Trifunovic of Belgrade University, whom Deliso quotes about ten times in support of his argument. The ‘terrorism expert’ Trifunovic makes statements such as ‘what the West seems to have forgotten is that long before the [2001] terrorist attacks against America, the Bosnian Serbs were fighting against jihad, a literal jihad ordered and funded by Osama bin Laden, in their own country. Former mujahedin have told me that bin Laden personally ordered them to fight Christians in the Balkans – and later, to expand in Europe, especially Italy and Spain. The West is now paying the price for supporting the mujahedin against the Serbs.’ (p. 143) A comment of this kind might raise suspicions as to its author’s objectivity in even the most naive observer – even one who did not already know that Trifunovic had been expelled from participation in the 11th European Police Congress after the organisers learned that he was a Srebrenica denier who reduced the figure for the Srebrenica massacre to less than one hundred, and who, in an email correspondence with two Bosnian Muslims posing as a Serb, said of the Srebrenica Muslims that ‘I wish Mladic had killed them all’.

Another of Deliso’s sources is a certain Nebojsa Malic, whom Deliso describes as a ‘native Bosnian political analyst’. Deliso quotes Malic as saying: ‘Izetbegovic’s vision of Bosnia was not a multi-ethnic democracy, but a multi-caste hierarchy of the kind that existed under the Ottoman Empire, the memories of which were still fresh at his birth in 1925.’ (p. 25) Deliso does not mention that this particular ‘native Bosnian political analyst’ was a signatory of the petition of the ‘International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic’ which describes Milosevic as a ‘Serbian patriot’ whose ‘crime was to set an example to the world by resisting NATO aggression’. Malic supported the neo-Nazi Tomislav Nikolic in this year’s Serbian presidential election; after Nikolic’s defeat, he complained that the Serbs had just proven that they ‘don’t have the guts’ to fight over Kosova.

While quoting the most raving Serb bigots as though they were objective experts, Deliso has consulted few genuine scholarly works on the Balkans, and his references to Balkan history contain some real howlers. Thus, he writes: ‘Both Croatia and Muslim Bosnia had served as fascist puppet states for the Nazis, during the Second World War’ (p. 7) – there was, of course, no Bosnian fascist puppet state during World War II. Deliso describes Yugoslavia as a country that had ‘sided with the United States in two world wars’ (p. 41) – unlikely, given that Yugoslavia did not exist until after World War I, whereas in World War II, Yugoslavia signed an alliance with Nazi Germany but was then invaded and occupied by it – all while the US was still neutral.

Deliso’s account of recent events in the Balkans is no more accurate. He describes Izetbegovic’s close ally Hasan Cengic as ‘a veteran of the World War II SS Handzar Division who reincarnated the unit while serving as Bosnia’s deputy defense minister in the early 1990s.’ (p. 8 ) It is unlikely that Cengic was a veteran of the SS Handzar Division or of World War II – given that he was born in 1957. Nor does Deliso provide any evidence at all to support his assertion that Cengic ‘reincarnated’ the SS Handzar Division in the 1990s. As I have written elsewhere, claims that a ‘Handzar Division’, named after the SS unit from World War II, was ‘reincarnated’ by Bosnian Muslims in the 1990s appear to rest on a single piece of ‘evidence’: an article by British journalist Robert Fox, published in Britain’s Daily Telegraph on 29 December 1993. Fox’s article is based solely on second-hand information and contains factual inaccuracies. Fox himself did not actually meet anyone who belonged to the alleged ‘Handzar Division’, but merely reported its existence on the basis of what unnamed UN officials on the ground told him. But even this weak source, which Deliso cites, does not implicate Cengic in the Handzar Division’s alleged ‘reincarnation’.

Deliso’s book is not merely a piece of bad scholarship – although it is undoubtedly that. He engages in the sort of atrocity denial and conspiracy theorising that characterises supporters of the former regime of Slobodan Milosevic. Thus, in writing of the Serbian massacre of Albanian civilians at the village of Racak in January 1999, Deliso writes: ‘An alleged Serbian “massacre” at the Kosovo village of Racak, later proved by a UN forensics team to have been a place of legitimate battle, provided the necessary justification for Clinton to start the bombing.’ (p. 43) The nonsense statement ‘proved by a UN forensics team to have been a place of legitimate battle’ is a case of Deliso fluffing his denialist lines. shay3

Schindler’s subject matter is narrower than Deliso’s, being confined essentially to Bosnia. It is less a study of the role of al-Qa’ida and the mujahedin in Bosnia and more a diatribe against the Bosnian Muslims and the Bosnian cause. Despite the author’s claim to having had a youthful flirtation with Islam (p. 13), he is clearly hostile to the religion and views the Bosnian war on this basis: ‘Bosnia’s Muslims were really Muslims, and some of them adhered to a faith that was deeply hostile to Western concepts of freedom, democracy, and human rights.’ (p. 19) Furthermore, ‘Muhammad himself endorsed, and practiced, the violent spreading of the faith and considered it the obligation of every Muslim’; consequently, ‘As devout traditionalist Muslims, Izetbegovic and the SDA [Party of Democratic Action] leadership adhered to the ideology of jihad that stands at the center of their faith.’ Schindler considers the term ‘fundamentalist’ meaningless when applied to Islam, because ‘[a]ll truly believing Muslims are, from a Western viewpoint, “fundamentalists”‘ (pp. 116-117). This hostility to Muslims and Islam appears to be the guiding motive behind Schindler’s book.

In this book, al-Qa’ida and the mujahedin play only supporting roles. After the introduction, the first third of the book makes no mention of them; it instead constitutes a polemic against the former regime of Bosnia’s Alija Izetbegovic and against the supporters of Bosnia in the West. Indeed, Schindler follows the well trodden revisionist road that was long ago laid down by supporters of the regime of Slobodan Milosevic and of the Great Serbian cause – of which the British magazine Living Marxism was perhaps the most notorious – of a Western media conspiracy to demonise the Serb side in the war and fabricate Serb atrocities. Schindler puts the term ‘concentration camps’ in quote marks when referring to the Serb camps of Omarska, Manjaca and Trnopolje, claiming that all media reports of such camps were ‘poorly sourced and based on second- and third-hand information, much of which was flat wrong’ (pp. 83-84); and he accuses the Bosnians of staging massacres of their own civilians in order to incriminate the Serbs (pp. 92, 186).

Schindler revises the death-toll of the Srebrenica massacre downward to ‘as many as two thousand Muslim men, mostly soldiers’ (p. 231) – although, in one of several internal contradictions in this book, he earlier put the figure at about seven thousand (p. 227). He argues that ‘[w]hile this was unquestionably a war crime, it is difficult to term it genocide’ (p. 231) – though it was not so difficult for the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, both of which formally described the Srebrenica massacre as ‘genocide’. Instead, Schindler portrays the Srebrenica massacre as Serb revenge for earlier Muslim attacks on Serb civilians, and employs a gross racial stereotype in the process: ‘To Mladic’s troops, who like all Bosnians believed in blood feuds and payback, this was simple revenge.’ (p. 231).

Schindler describes the siege of Sarajevo as a ‘siege manqué’ (p. 189) and as a ‘faux-siege’, where ‘conditions were much more normal than the Western media was willing to portray’ (p. 203), despite the Serb besiegers’ killing of thousands of people in Sarajevo during the war. Perhaps most tellingly of all, he claims (erroneously): ‘Ethnic cleansing, though unpleasant, was no more than the counterinsurgency doctrine learned by three generations of JNA [Yugoslav People’s Army] officers, who were trained in hunting down “fifth columnists” and “terrorists” by expelling sympathisers as well as fighters.’ (p. 82) He then endorses a CIA report, according to which: ‘The Bosnian Serb Army undertook these ethnic cleansing operations because it believed the Muslim population posed an armed threat or could act as a “Fifth Column” during the war with the Bosnian Government.’ (p. 82).

If the above citations suggest whose side Schindler is on, they do not properly convey the sheer extent of the deception in which he engages. He writes: ‘Milosevic wanted Bosnia and Hercegovina to remain in Yugoslavia, but failing that he would settle for a partition that would leave the ethnically Serbian parts under Belgrade’ (p. 63). Anyone who has looked at a map of the areas of Bosnia occupied by Serb forces in the early weeks of the Bosnian war, while they were still under the control of Belgrade and Milosevic, knows that this is untrue; they occupied huge areas in eastern and northern Bosnia in which the Muslims and/or Croats were in the majority. Schindler writes that ‘the [Yugoslav] army in the months leading to war in most cases tried to place itself between Serbs and Muslims and defuse tensions’ (p. 66), suggesting he has not read, or has simply ignored, the books by authors such as Norman Cigar, James Gow, Smail Cekic, myself and others that detail the unity of purpose between the JNA and the Bosnian Serb nationalists in the preparations for war.

Schindler writes that ‘Belgrade sought to arm the Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia, fearing that Yugoslavia was headed for dissolution’ (p. 68 ) – ignoring the fact that Belgrade was itself engineering Yugoslavia’s dissolution, as revealed in sources such as the published diary of Milosevic’s close collaborator Borisav Jovic, former president of Yugoslavia and of the Socialist Party of Serbia. Schindler then writes: ‘The JNA General Staff was not brought into the plan’ of arming the Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia (p. 68 ) – again, he has either not read, or has ignored, the memoirs of Veljko Kadijevic, the most senior figure in the JNA during the war in Croatia, who describes in detail the JNA’s role in arming Serb forces in Croatia and Bosnia. Schindler continues, ‘Belgrade saw this concept [of arming the Serbs] as defensive, a plan to protect Serbs outside Serbia – and, in extremis, to prevent another genocide against Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia’ (p. 68 ) – leading one to ask why Belgrade showed so little interest in protecting the substantial Serb populations of cities such as Zagreb and Split, while devoting so much energy to conquering territories such as eastern Slavonia, where Serbs were a small minority.

Schindler portrays the ‘Muslim’ (i.e. Bosnian) side as being the one that was initiating preparations for war, while the JNA was merely responding (p. 72). In order to make a case for this blatant falsehood and the arguments that flow from it, Schindler simply avoids mentioning almost all the acts of aggression carried out by the JNA in the first weeks of the war: the conquest of Zvornik, Foca, Visegrad, Kupres, Doboj, Derventa, Brcko and other towns; and the shelling of Mostar and Sarajevo. He consequently portrays the Bosnian military’s action as coming out of the blue, enabling him to portray it as the aggressor – not very convincing to anyone who knows the history of the war, but enough to deceive an uninformed reader. Having failed to mention all these coordinated Serbian acts of conquest, he then describes ‘two unprovoked Muslim attacks on the JNA that fatally poisoned relations between the army and the SDA’: the Bosnian attack on the JNA in Sarajevo on 3 May and in Tuzla on 15 May. Well, yes, the attacks were ‘unprovoked’ if you do not consider a military assault on your country, the conquest of many of your towns and massive atrocities against your civilian population to count as a ‘provocation’. Schindler claims the attack on the JNA in Sarajevo ’caused lasting bitterness among the Serbs’, and describes the attack on the JNA in Tuzla as a ‘killing spree’ and a ‘massacre’ (pp. 80-81). Yet the JNA was a military target, and attacking a military target was, presumably, a reasonable thing to do in war. By contrast, Schindler does not mention the Serb and JNA massacres of Muslim civilians that had been taking place all over Bosnia, or whether they might have ’caused lasting bitterness’ among the Muslims. Similarly, Schindler mentions attacks on Serb civilians carried out by Naser Oric, the Bosnian Army commander in Srebrenica, between May and December 1992, claiming that it was ‘[s]mall wonder that the Bosnian Serbs thirsted for revenge against the Muslims of Srebrenica’ (p. 228). But he does not mention the Serb attacks on Muslim civilians all across East Bosnia that preceded Oric’s actions.

While whitewashing the role of the Milosevic regime and Yugoslav army in engineering the war, Schindler suppresses or misrepresents evidence in order to make his case: that Izetbegovic and his fellow SDA politicians were radical Islamists. He therefore makes claims against the Bosnian leadership that anyone with a cursory knowledge of the subject knows to be untrue. This involves attempting to portray Izetbegovic and his SDA as being unwilling to share power with the Bosnian Serbs. He claims that following the fall of the Communist regime in Bosnia in 1990 and the emergence of free political parties, the Serb nationalist leader Radovan Karadzic offered Izetbegovic and his party a coalition, but that the ‘Muslims expressed no interest’ (p. 63). In fact, Izetbegovic and the SDA did indeed form a coalition with the Karadzic’s Serb nationalists, and with the Croat nationalists, that resulted in posts in the Bosnian government, presidency and administration being equally divided between the three groups of nationalists, with key posts going to the Serbs – including the command of the Bosnian Territorial Defence. Schindler then misrepresents the plan negotiated between Karadzic and the dissident Muslim politician Adil Zulfikarpasic in August 1991 as a ‘power-sharing plan’ (p. 71), omitting to mention that Serbs and Muslims already shared power in Bosnia, and that the plan was in fact aimed at keeping Bosnia within Milosevic’s Serbian-dominated rump Yugoslavia. Schindler, indeed, argues that Izetbegovic and his party wished to deny the Bosnian Serbs full citizenship – but produces no evidence to back up his claim, other than an unsupported assertion by the Belgrade historian Aleksa Djilas (p. 64).

Schindler relies on extremely dubious source material to make his case against Izetbegovic and the SDA. One eyewitness whom Schindler quotes approvingly several times is Fikret Abdic (pp. 198, 203, 217). Abdic is certainly very liberal in his denunciation of Izetbegovic, but Schindler fails to mention that Abdic is a convicted war-criminal who staged an armed rebellion against his own democratically elected government, and fought against it on the side of Serb forces invading from outside Bosnia, from Serb-occupied Croatia. Another eyewitness in support of Schindler’s case against Izetbegovic is Aleksandar Vasiljevic, head of Yugoslav military intelligence (p. 72-73) – Schindler takes everything he says about Izetbegovic at face value. A third is the former US State Department official George Kenney (p. 86), who resigned in protest at US inaction over Bosnia, but then changed sides, becoming one of the most vocal enemies of the Izetbegovic regime. Schindler does not mention the extent of Kenney’s conversion, or the fact that Kenney wrote to Milosevic, while the latter was in prison in The Hague, to assure him that he considered him innocent of all charges against him, and that he considered his trial to be a ‘show trial’.

So dubious, indeed, is Schindler’s source material, that it is difficult to believe that he is using it innocently, or that he is attempting to convince anybody but the most naive of the merits of his case. He claims that Bosnian Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic declared an ‘Islamic holy war’ on Bosnian TV in July 1995 (p. 200) – his source for this is the Belgrade news agency SRNA. He claims that the Bosnian Army murdered the Bosnian Croat commander Vlado Santic (p. 214) – his source for this is the Bosnian Croat newspaper Dnevni list, which is linked the nationalist Croat Democratic Union. He tells of mujahedin snuff videos, in which Bosnian Army commander Sakib Mahmuljin allegedly boasts of having sent a gift of twenty-eight severed Christian heads to Izetbegovic and twenty-eight more to Iran, and of Serb prisoners being made by the mujahedin to kiss the severed heads of other Serbs that were nailed to trees (pp. 166-167) – but Schindler has not actually seen any of these videos; his only source is one Croatian and one Serbian newspaper article. Schindler even endorses the view of the intelligence services of Franjo Tudjman’s Croatia concerning the alleged Islamic threat, arguing that ‘the unheeded warnings from the Croatian intelligence services about the unwisdom of entering an alliance with radical Islam and the likes of al-Qa’ida had been prescient.’ (p. 215).

Schindler describes Osama bin Laden as having been one of Izetbegovic’s ‘friends’ (p. 239), though he has no evidence for this. He cites several sources in support of his claim that bin Laden was in Bosnia during the war; the one he describes as ‘most credible’ being the German journalist Renate Flottau, who claims to have met bin Laden in the foyer of Izetbegovic’s office in the early 1990s (p. 123). Izetbegovic’s staff told Flottau that bin Laden was ‘here every day and we don’t know how to make him go away’ (p. 124). As I mentioned in my own book on the Bosnian Army, Izetbegovic himself never ruled out the possibility that he may have met bin Laden, but stated that he had no recollection of having done so; he pointed out that he met thousands of foreign Muslim visitors during the war. Izetbegovic was, of course, visited by many people during the war who were certainly not his ‘friends’, and many who were not Muslims, but Schindler jumps from providing evidence that bin Laden may have visited Izetbegovic to claiming that bin Laden was Izetbegovic’s ‘friend’. Other evidence that he produces on this score is similar in character: e.g. the claim of one of Izetbegovic’s domestic opponents, the Social Democrat Sejfudin Tokic, who ‘attested that photos exist of Izetbegovic and bin Laden together’ (p. 125) – photos which, needless to say, Schindler has not seen. Most of Schindler’s case against Izetbegovic and the SDA is based upon this sort of unsubstantiated rumour. Like Deliso, Schindler claims that Bosnian Muslim radicals during the war established a military unit named the ‘Handzar Division’, named after the Nazi SS division of the same name that had existed during World War II. And like Deliso, he bases this claim on the solitary, tendentious newspaper article by Robert Fox.

One of the more amusing of Schindler’s blunders concerns the scientific calculation of the figure for Bosnian war-dead carried out by Mirsad Tokaca’s Research and Documentation Centre in Sarajevo, which placed it at about one hundred thousand. Schindler seems to endorse this figure wholeheartedly, seeing it as proof that earlier estimates of Bosnian war-dead had been ‘grossly exaggerated’, and complaining that Tokaca’s result ‘got minimal attention in Bosnia or abroad’ (p. 317). The reason this is amusing is that Tokaca’s figures disprove several of the figures for Serb dead at the hands of Bosnian forces that Schindler himself cites. Thus, Schindler claims that ‘more than 3,000 Bosnian Serbs, some soldiers but at least 1,300 unarmed civilians, had been killed by Muslim forces based in Srebrenica’ (p. 228). Yet according to Tokaca’s calculation, only 849 Serb civilians were killed in the whole of Podrinje – the region that includes Srebrenica, and where Oric’s alleged crimes occurred – in the whole of the war. Likewise, with regard to the Serb victims of the Sarajevo Muslim warlord Musan Topalovic-Caco, Schindler claims: ‘By the war’s end, it was clear that at least two thousand Sarajevo Serbs had fallen victim to Caco’s gang, though the civic association representing the city’s Serbs claimed the true figure was closer to five thousand’ (p. 105). Yet according to Tokaca’s figures, only 1,091 Serb civilians were killed in the whole of the Sarajevo region during the war, and this includes those killed by the Serb siege. Schindler claims that ‘at least 1,500 Croatian civilians were killed in the fighting’ between Muslims and Croats (p. 99), yet according to Tokaca’s figures, in the two regions of Bosnia encompassed by the Muslim-Croat conflict, Central Bosnia and Neretva, only 786 Croat civilians were killed during the entire war, including those killed by Serb forces. So when Schindler writes that Tokaca’s figures ‘got minimal attention in Bosnia or abroad’, he is probably referring to himself.

Schindler claims that the SDA had ‘helped establish the beginnings of an Islamist statelet in Europe’ (p. 253), but scrapes the bottom of the barrel to find evidence for this. He admits that ‘Izetbegovic and the party leadership, for all their waxing Koranic to improve public morality, were careful to never speak openly about their plan for implementing a fully Islamic society.’ (p. 196) But if Schindler is unable to find evidence for Izetbegovic’s alleged Islamist plans in what he said, neither is he able to find it in what he and his party did. He mentions an SDA election poster of 2000, entitled ‘Beautiful like Sarajevo girls’, showing three female faces – ‘two in Western makeup, one in hijab’, and notes: ‘This was the SDA’s new Bosnia, forged in a terrible war, and it had many wondering which worldview – Western and secular or Islamist and radical – the party really stood for.’ (p. 274). Yet an election poster that shows two Western-style women coexisting with a woman in hijab cannot by any stretch of the imagination be taken as evidence of a radical Islamic world-view.

Likewise, concerning the unproven allegation that Izetbegovic collaborated with the Nazis during World War II, Schindler writes: ‘Even out of office, the SDA founder continued to deny allegations that he had been a Nazi collaborator as a young man and had served in the Bosnian Muslim 13th Handzar Division of the Waffen-SS. Though no evidence emerged to tie him directly to the Nazis, it was nevertheless significant, observed a Sarajevo pundit, that Izetbegovic continued to feel the need to publicly deny rumors that had existed for many years.’ (p. 276) – an argument so feeble that it defies comment. Schindler admits that Bosnia engaged in a ‘modest participation in the American-led war on Islamist terrorism’ but complains that this provoked ‘open resentment among Bosnian Muslims’, and that ‘local newspapers regularly carried attacks on America and its leader “the state terrorist Bush.”‘ (p. 293). Damning evidence indeed – most of Christian Europe was probably ‘Islamist’ by this standard.

Most instances of supposed ‘Islamist terrorism’ in the post-Dayton period that Schindler cites in his book turn out simply to be cases of former mujahedin attacking Croat or Serb civilians, above all refugees trying to return to their former homes (pp. 263-264), much as Serbs and Croats likewise attacked returning refugees from other communities – though Schindler does not mention the latter. Schindler explains away the absence of genuine Islamist terrorism in Bosnia by claiming that ‘most mujahidin were wary of targeting US or Western interests in Bosnia – anywhere else was fair game – because they appreciated that NATO gave them a de facto safe haven after Dayton.’ (p. 266). So Bosnia was free of Islamist terrorism because the type of Islamist terrorists based there did not like to attack Western targets. It therefore perhaps did not matter so much that, according to Schindler, ‘the Muslim police underperformed when it came to tracking down wanted holy warriors.’ (p. 262). Yet Schindler, like Deliso, mentions the Bosnian police arresting on 19 October 2005 an armed terrorist cell that was planning to attack the British Embassy (p. 318 ) – somehow the police of the ‘Islamist statelet’ had managed to overcome their reluctance to act against Islamists and staved off an attack against a Western target.

There are so many factual errors and internal contradictions in Schindler’s book that it is impossible to list them all, so what follows are just some examples. Schindler claims that ‘reliable analysis concludes that between five thousand and six thousand Islamic fighters came to Bosnia during the war’ (p. 162) – having previously written that ‘there were probably four thousand foreign Islamists who fought for Sarajevo during the civil war’ (p. 119). He claims that the Bosnian Serbs ‘made up most of the agricultural population in Bosnia, and therefore controlled a disproportionate share of the land to be cleared of non-Serbs’, which is simply rubbish – more agricultural land in Bosnia was owned by Muslims than by Serbs before 1992. Schindler claims that ‘Ustasha’ means ‘uprising’ (p. 33), when in fact it means ‘insurgent’. He claims that Dzafer Kulenovic was made vice-president of the ‘Independent State of Croatia’ in November 1941 (p. 33); in fact, he was made deputy prime-minister. Schindler claims that during World War II ‘the Serbs of Bosnia and Croatia were also the only Yugoslav nation exposed to actual genocide’ (p. 60) – he is either unaware, or chooses to ignore, the work by two leading Yugoslav historians of the World War II genocide, the Serb Vladimir Dedijer and the Croat Antun Miletic, entitled Genocide of the Muslims,1941-1945: Collected documents and testimony (Svjetlost, Sarajevo, 1990), which provides evidence of the wartime Serb Chetnik genocide of the Muslims.

Schindler claims that ‘alone among Bosnia’s peoples they [the Muslims] had made no real contribution to Allied victory, and their collaboration with the Nazis had been unsurpassed’ – another fabrication, since nearly a quarter of all Bosnian Partisans had been Muslims; their readiness to join the Partisans compared favourably with that of the Bosnian Croats; their contribution to the anti-Nazi struggle was, for a nationality of their size, a significant one; and their readiness to speak out against Nazi crimes in 1941, and protect the victims of genocide, was virtually unparalleled in Nazi-occupied Europe. Schindler claims that the senior Bosnian Muslim Communist Osman Karabegovic was expelled from the League of Communists of Yugoslavia in 1972 for Muslim ‘exclusivism’ and ‘nationalism’ (p. 43); this is the opposite of the truth – Karabegovic was expelled because he was too much of a Yugoslav centralist; he would later become one of the most prominent Bosnian Muslims to support Milosevic. The text ‘Virtuous Muslim State’, published in Tuzla in 1993, was not the ‘SDA’s manifesto’, as Schindler claims (p. 95), but merely a proposal put forward by a senior SDA member from Tuzla. Schindler writes of the Bosnian Serb JNA officer Jovan Divjak, that he ‘sided with Izetbegovic and the SDA when war broke out. It was a decision he would regret.’ (p. 102). This is again untrue: Divjak never supported the SDA; he supported his country – Bosnia – in the war, and would never regret having done so. Nor is it true that the anti-nationalist Bosnian Serb journalist Gojko Beric had been ‘an ardent supporter of the SDA’ during the war (p. 310).

When all the rumours, unsubstantiated allegations and outright falsehoods are taken away, Schindler’s case against Izetbegovic and the SDA evaporates. We are left with a picture of a secular Bosnia-Hercegovina under an SDA regime that was undoubtedly highly corrupt and frequently brutal to its political opponents, but that supported the US-led ‘War on Terror’, arrested Islamist terrorist suspects and was essentially free of genuine Islamist terrorist outrages on its soil – certainly more free than the US, Britain, Spain or Turkey. The most that can be said for Schindler’s portrayal of Bosnia as a centre of global jihad is that, yes, some of the foreign mujahedin who fought in Bosnia would subsequently go on to engage in acts of terrorism and jihad elsewhere, some with the dubious benefit derived from possession of Bosnian passports – scarcely a free pass throughout the Western world, as anyone in the West who has Bosnian friends knows. In other words, none of the evidence presented here suggests that the global Islamist jihad would look significantly different today had the Bosnian war never taken place.

One other malevolent error of which both Deliso and Schindler are guilty is their portrayal of the Clinton Administration as being hawkishly pro-Muslim and anti-Serb. You would not know, from reading either of these books, that Clinton had enforced the arms embargo against Bosnia for the best part of the war; that he had come under massive fire from Congress for his unwillingness either to break the arms embargo or to carry out air-strikes against Serb forces; that he had forced the Bosnian Army to halt its victorious advance against Serb forces in the autumn of 1995, leaving half of Bosnia in Serb-rebel hands; that the Clinton-imposed Dayton Accords engineered the recognition of the ‘Republika Srpska’ incorporating nearly half of Bosnia, with a much smaller share of territory going to the Muslims; and that after Dayton, the Clinton Administration avoided arresting the Serb war criminals Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. Authors incapable of properly analysing Islamism are equally incapable of analysing US foreign policy. shay4

After reading two such inaccurate, unscholarly, poorly researched and politically motivated works of propaganda, it actually comes as a relief to read a book that is merely very bad. Shaul Shay, unlike Deliso and Schindler, has no Balkan agenda or axe to grind; he is a former Israeli intelligence officer, and he genuinely comes at the Balkans from the perspective of someone primarily interested in radical Islam and the Islamic countries, rather than vice versa. His book contains some rather endearingly naive sentences, such as ‘Yugoslavia is [sic] a mountainous country in the northern Balkans’ (p. 19) and ‘Bosnia-Herzegovina is a mountainous country in the Balkan [sic] that is divided into two historical geographic regions – the Bosnia region in the north and the Herzegovina region in the south’ (p. 39); he elsewhere describes Bosnia as having ‘a Muslim majority and a Serb minority’ (p. 24).

Shay’s run-of-the-mill-first-year-undergraduate-quality potted history of the Balkans repeats some of the historical and other factual errors made by Deliso and Schindler, in particular at the expense of the Bosnian Muslims, and there are numerous misspellings of names (Alija becomes ‘Ilia’, Cengic become ‘Kengic’, Vojvodina becomes ‘Wivodena’ and so on). Having gone into the errors of Deliso and Schindler in detail, I’m not going to bore the reader further by listing Shay’s; his are by far the most innocent of the three. In fact, he appears to be the sort of person that books of the Deliso-Schindler variety might be written to target. If one simply ignores everything Shay’s book has to say about Balkan politics, then one can glean a few nuggets of information from it concerning the politics of radical Islam globally and of the Muslim states of the Middle East. But this is not enough to recommend this book when there are much better treatments of these topics available.

Radical Islam is a genuine problem facing Europe, and although it is actually less of a danger in the Balkans outside of Turkey than it is in Western Europe, this does not mean it is not a problem facing the Balkans as well. We need objective, scholarly analyses of the activities of Wahhabites and other radical Muslims in the Balkans if we are to understand and confront the problem. Unfortunately, this will not happen so long as writers simply use the issue to make propaganda to fight Balkan wars that, ultimately, have little to do with radical Islam.

Nataša Kandić: Scare Tactics Used by The Prosecutor´s Office

Background : Last November former protected witness Slobodan Stojanović, former member of 37th Division of Special Units Of the Police or PJP (Posebnih jedinica policije) accused Serbia´s Head War Crimes Prosecutor Vladimir Vukčević, his deputy Bruno Vekarić and prosecutor Dragoljub Stanković of trying to cover up for those police officers suspected of committing war crimes against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo in October 1998. Stojanović went on to say that many of those responsible for committing war crimes in Kosovo were now charged with protecting the witnesses. Stojanović´s statement about the Prosecutor´s Office was denied by deputy prosecutor, Bruno Vekarić saying that Stojanović had left by his own free will and that though he had in the beginning acted like a model witness and everything was working fine, he later started asking for various favors. Vekarić´s statement was however discredited by Nataša Kandić, founder of Humanitarian Law Fund, who in an article for RSE 13.11.2014 supported Stojanović´s claims backed by her own experience.

This article appeared on Radio Free Europe 13 11 2014

Nataša Kandić
Nataša Kandić

In light of statements given by the deputy prosecutor Bruno Vekarić that police officer Slobodan Stojanović had by his own free will decided to leave the witness protection program in which he was enrolled in by the War Crimes Prosecutors Office in connection with the investigation against then commander of 37th Division of Special Unit Of the Police or PJP (Posebnih jedinica policije) part of Serbian MUP (Ministry of the Interior) one Radoslav Mitrović and 16 more members of the PJP. I can personally assure you it is not true. In agreement with the prosecution, witness protection unit had 29.10.2009 without any prior notification, entered the apartment of one protected witness, ordered him to collect his things, his wife and child because they would be sent back to Leskovac, he was briefly notified that his status as a protected witness had been cancelled.

Given that I was representing the victims in that particular case, during the investigation against Mitrovic and others I became familiar with the techniques used by the Prosecutors Office to deter witness Stojanović  and three more police officers, all former members of the PJP and under the command of Radoslav Mitrović from testifying about war crimes carried out in Kosovo. To this day, I still haven’t understood why the prosecutor Stanković, initiated criminal proceedings against those who had been accused by the Humanitarian Law Fund only to a few months later completely change his position and jeopardizing the position of the protected witnesses and police witness’s willingness to talk about war crimes.

In this case, I am, after seven years of representing the families of the victims in all cases of war crimes, subjected to insult by defense attorneys for the defendants in the presence of the investigating judge and the prosecutor, who spoke about me in a language that can be heard in a brothel. In order to get me, as well as the protected witnesses, as far away from the proceedings as possible the investigating judge and the prosecutor went so far as to have agreed with defense counsel that there were grounds for suspecting that I had falsified power of attorney families of the victims, which led to my exclusion from the proceedings. After that, the prosecutor, the investigating judge and individual defenders got drunk on the premises of the Prosecutors Office calling witness Stojanovic to join them.

Vladimir Vukčević and Bruno Vekarić
Vladimir Vukčević and Bruno Vekarić

The fate of protected witness B.Z. was just as horrible. He had spent more than two years in the witness protection program, waiting for someone from the Prosecutors Office to come and take his statement. Members of the unit for protection of witnesses had brought him to the point of complete disorientation using their techniques. He left the program by his own free will because he could no longer stand the mental torture. I was aware of his situation, and I suggested to him to seek political asylum in a European country. Had he remained under the protection of the Prosecutor´s Office and the witness protection unit, he’d be a seriously ill person.

The result of the process against witnesses – insiders and me personally meant freedom for Police General Radoslav Mitrovic but it seriously compromised the Prosecutor´s Office and Witness Protection Units, all of which is exceedingly documented in the report by the Humanitarian Law Fund regarding illegalities in the prosecution of war crimes and numerous appeals of protected witnesses.

Vad skiljer Slobodan Milosevic och Vladimir Putin åt? Svar: 22 år

Den här artikeln publicerades av Radio Free Europe 11 mars 2014. Skriven av Nenad Pejic. Pejic är just nu chefredaktör för Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty. Han var tidigare chef för RFE / RL: s Balkan Service.

Slobodan Milosevic inför tribunalen i Haag
Slobodan Milosevic inför tribunalen i Haag

Av : Nenad Pejic

Nu när jag sitter och tittar på nyheterna och ser bilderna från Krim så kan jag inte låta bli att få en känsla av Déjà vu . Det är nästan som om jag återupplever Jugoslaviens sönderfall och början av kriget i Bosnien Hercegovina.

När Rysslands propagandamaskineri hävdar att trupperna på Krim utan några id-märken är spontant samlade ”självförsvarstyrkor” som består av oroade medborgare så kan jag inte låta bli att tänka på likanande ”självorganiserade” beväpnade grupper som började sätta upp barrikader runt om i Sarajevo i mars 1992.

Precis som på Krim så saknade dessa grupper några emblem. Det de hade var däremot splitternya Kalashnikovs, de var utomordentligt väl samordnade när det gäller kommunikation och de hade militärdisciplin. Likheten är kuslig och olycksbådande för de som var i Sarajevo under den tiden.

Vad skiljer då Slobodan Milosevic från Vladimir Putin? Svar: 22 år. Det är en och samma man med två skuggor med samma ”modus operandi” som skiljs av drygt två decennier. Faktum är att hade Milosevic varit vid liv idag så hade troligtvis stämt Putin för plagiarism. Den ryske presidenten kallar de beväpnade männen på Krim för ”volontärer” eller ”frivilliga” som skyddar de etniska ryssarnas rättigheter. Under 1990-talet använde sig Milosevic av exakt samma ord för att beskriva likanande väpnade grupper som han hävdade bara skyddade etniska serber. Putin hävdar att Ukrainas suveränitet borde respekteras samtidigt som han gör allt i sin makt för att underminera den. Milosevic pratade också om att Bosniens territoriella integritet ska respekteras samtidigt som trupper under hans kontroll gjorde allt för att dela den nyligen suveräna staten.

Bägge ledare använder religion som bränsle för att spä på konflikten och rättfärdiga militär intervention. Rysk media rapporterade nyligen – (Det visade sig vara falskt) att Kaves klostret i Kyiv hade vandaliserats. Serbisk media 1992 hävdade (Det visade sig också vara falskt) att serbiska kyrkor och kloster hade blivit vandaliserade. Putin testar väst för att se hur de ska reagera, han räknar också med att splittringen mellan USA och Europa kommer minska risken för något som liknar ett samlad och koordinerad svar, Milosevic gjorde samma sak 22 år sen.

Sen har vi de kusliga likheterna mellan Putins och Milosevic retorik. När demonstranterna i Kyiv besköts av krypskyttar, var det få bosnier som inte la märke till likheterna med vad som hände i Sarajevo 6 april 1992–när demonstranter besköts och belägringen av staden började. Den ryska rapporteringen av krypskyttattacken liknade också den serbiska rapporteringen från Sarajevo två decennier tidigare, då var det också så att demonstranter sköt på varandra. Rysk media har också rapporterat om ett påstådd ”flyktingsvåg” med ca 650 000 människor som vällde över gränsen till Ryssland från Ukraina. När det bosniska kriget började så hävdade serbisk media att flyktingar vällde över in i Serbien.  I bägge fall så slog FN fast att så var inte fallet, men det spelar ingen roll.

Både serbisk och rysk media har förlitat sig på förfalskade bilder som ett sätt att illusterara och förstärka det de har hävdat. Rysk media använde sig av bilder från den tungt trafikerade gränsen mellan Polen och Ukraina. Serbisk media 1992 använde sig av bilder där flyktingar försökte komma undan, det är bara att flyktingarna försökte komma undan Milosevic styrkor.

Den politiskt och emotionellt laddade språkbruket som rysk media har använt för att beskriva de nya makthavarna i Kyiv där man stämplar de som ”fascister” och ”anti-semiter” liknar väldigt mycket det sättet som serbisk media beskrev sina motståndare. Kroater stämplades som ”Ustasha” och Bosniaker som ”Mujaheddin”

Det är så här krig börjar, det är så här man mobiliserar folk att hata i ett samhälle. Vanliga medborgare utsätts för daglig dos av fruktan och propaganda som till slut eroderar tilliten som finns mellan olika etniska grupper, olika nationaliteter. 1992 lurades serber av Milosevic till att tro att han försvarade och räddade deras belägrade nation genom att “erövra territorier och städer.” Likaså tror en majoritet av ryssar enligt opinionsmätningar att deras militär räddar Krims ryska befolkning genom att annexera Krim. Det är betydligt lättare att tro än att ställa frågor.

Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin

Det finns också en kuslig likhet mellan hur både Milosevic och Putin kom till makten. Ingen av dem var invalda, Putin utnämndes som premiärminister 1999 av dåvarande presidenten Boris Jeltsin, som nämnde Putin som sin efterträdare. När Jeltsin steg åt sidan ett par månader senare, Putin blev president. På samma sätt så började Slobodan Milosevic politiska uppgång, då han 1986 utsågs till chef för det serbiska kommunistpartiet. Bägge ledares första tid präglades av utnyttjandet av en etnisk konflikt: i Milosevic fall, Kosovo, i Putins, Tjetjenien.

Bägge etablerade pseudo-demokratier med hårt styrda statliga medier och falska oppositionspartier. Bägge sökte att stärka sin ställning med ”spontana” pro-regim rallyn. Bägge använde sig av ”patriotiska” ungdomsorganisationer för att trakassera sina motståndare. När det gäller Milosevic blev det : ” Det socialistiska ungdomsförbundet” och för Putin: ”Nasi”

Både Putin och Milosevic styrde samhällen där de statliga institutioner var svaga, där korruption var utbredd, rättssäkerhet frånvarande, och säkerhetstjänsten politiskt bemyndigade.

Men medan parallellerna mellan Putin och Milosevic inte går att förneka, behöver detta inte nödvändigtvis betyda att man vet hur berättelsen kommer sluta för Putin.

Milosevic kunde ägna sig åt sina militära äventyr i “bara” åtta år, innan NATO enades mot honom i Kosovo 1999 och han störtades av en folklig revolution ett år senare.

Men Putin har en fördel som Milosevic saknade. Ryssland, till skillnad från Serbien, är en viktig geopolitisk aktör med en plats i FN: s säkerhetsråd, en kärnvapenmakt och en viktig leverantör av energi till Europa. Om, utan tillgångar som dessa, Milosevic lyckades plåga sina grannar I åtta år, hur länge kommer Putin att kunna göra det?

Peace Reaserch and Conspiracy Theorists

Ceremony for the victims of the first Markale massacre in 1994
Ceremony for the victims of the first Markale massacre in 1994

This article originally appeared on Norwegian Website, Vepsen 06/03/2014 

Last month many Sarajevo citizens found the way to the memorial Markale massacre 5 February 1994 (1), in which 68 people were killed when a shell hit the crowded marketplace. Massacre provoked international outrage, one year later on August 28, five Serb mortar shell landed on the same market place killings scores of civilians and helping to trigger NATO intervention which ended with the Dayton Peace Agreement in December 1995.

By John Faerseth

While most agree the most obvious explanation, which has been established by The Hague tribunal – that the shell was fired from the Serb positions around Sarajevo – there have always been those who have argued that it was not the Serbs but the Bosnian government forces who fired the grenade to arouse sympathy. One of them is the imprisoned Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic [2 ]. Another is Ola Tunander, professor at the Peace Research Institute ( PRIO ), who during a speech in August last year [3 ] claimed that the massacre was a ” false flag ” attack by Bosnian forces aimed at  triggering an intervention.

This initiative was just the latest in a series conspiracy theories from Tunander, who since the mid -2000s has been known as an avid  “9/11- Truther” who believes that the U.S. government itself was behind the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001. He is also known as an ardent advocate of the existence of  “dypstater” or “deep-states” at the intersection of intelligence, military and criminal groups in a number of countries, and that a wide variety of terrorist acts in post-war Europe has been ” false flag ” operations run by such ” deep-states.” Tunander created a great deal of controversy when he in the wake of the terror 22 July 2011 speculated whether such an environment could also have been involved here , or it could be a case of an operation directed by Israel or Saudi Arabia. [4 ]

Tunander lecture took place at the event; Nordiska Fredssamtal in Degerfors. (Sweden) Here also in attendence was the pro – Serbian Swedish organization Justitia Pax Veritas who defend Serb war crimes by showing that all parties were equally bad, and last summer ended up in the spotlight as they defended the Serbian government’s decision to stop a planned gay parade of ”safety ” reasons. In the lecture Tunander also claimed that since the early 1990s had existed secret plans to take turns knocking out Iraq, Libya, Syria, Lebanon and Iran.

Peace Research at it´s best and worst is the requirement that one should listen to arguments from all sides in a conflict. At its best, this opens up a nuanced perspective and prevents the demonization of the parties. At its worst it can lead moral relativism and conspiracy, as when, in a book about “konfliktterori”  (Conflict Theory) published by Johan Galtungs Transcend Network states that ”the Zionist declaration of war” against Germany before the war was part of the backdrop of conflict between Germans and Jews. [5 ] that there was such a declaration of war is a widespread notion in anti-Semitic and right wing groups, and based on some Jewish leaders called for a boycott of Germany after Hitler’s seizure of power had already led to attacks on German Jews from Nazi storm troops. [6 ]

Tunander´s fraternization with Serbian nationalism as witnessed by earlier initiatives in which he has accused the Bosnian government and the Kosovo Albanian guerrilla; Kosovo Liberation Army of  cynically practicing “human sacrifice” in the 1990s by provoking massacres of it´s own people in the hope of outside support, can probably best be understood as an expression of what the American author and journalist Chip Berlet has described as “Right Woos Left”. [7] With this aim Berlet shows how anti -war activists from the left and exponents of the extreme right since the first Gulf war in 1991, found each other in a joint commitment towards American foreign policy. Berlet refers to a number of examples of how parts of the anti -war movement has increasingly taken over conspiratorial notions from the government hostile American extreme right wing , especially from the neo-Nazi environment journals Spotlight and American Free Press and from the neo-fascist La Rouche movement . One of the most frightening examples of this is the Montreal -based peace organization Centre for Research on Globalization, led by Professor Michel Chossodovsky [ 8], which has been accused of spreading conspiracy theories about Jewish bankers role in starting both world wars, vaccine resistance and holocaust denial and conspiracy theories about 11 September which was first launched on the extreme right site Serendipity.

While he cannot be held directly responsible for this, Ola Tunander often referred to as the authority on the Centre for Research on Globalization website; Global Research. It is also a tell  that he chose to stay to discuss the Utøya massacre partly based on the information from extreme right website Veterans Today.

Fraternizing with conspiracy thinking is becoming a serious problem for peace research, both in Norway and internationally. It’s time to deal with this if it is not going to be a playground for buffs and conspiracy theorists.


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Serbia´s treatment of convicted war criminals is an affront to the victims

Slobodan Medic in Trnovo July 1995
Slobodan Medic in Trnovo July 1995

On Tuesday 31th of December 2013 Slobodan Medic  his wife and their son were killed in a car crash near the town of Sremska Mitrovica in Serbia. Medic was once one of the  commanders of the notorious paramilitary  unit Scorpions. Working under the patronage of Serbian State Security, the unit was widely used during the fighting and the subsequent pogroms of non-Serbs in Croatia Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina during the wars in the those countries. Since 1991 they had played a key role, especially in eastern Slavonia, which was Serb-held for much of the war in Croatia. Sponsored by and working for Serbian State Security the unit was stationed in Sid, 80km north-west of Belgrade, which during the Croatian war became the starting point for the Serbian attack on eastern Croatia. They were also used by Milosevic´s regime to make sure that the local Serb authority did as they were told, as reward for their efforts the regime in Belgrade looked the other way as Scorpions and other groups indulged in smuggling and looting.

However the unit is mostly known for their involvement in the murder of six Bosniak men and boys after the fall of Srebrenica and the subsequent genocide that took place there in July 1995. The murdered men: Safet Fejzic (1978), Azmir Alispahic (1978), Sidik Salkic (1959), Smajl Ibrahimovic (1960), Dino Salihovic (1979) and Juso Delic (1970)

In 2005 during the trial of Slobodan Milosevic the prosecution submitted into evidence a video tape filmed by a member of the  Scorpions, The 20-minute video showed several members of the Scorpions under the leadership of Slobodan Medic ordering six  Bosniak prisoners, dressed in civilian clothes, from the back of a lorry. The victims  were taken by lorry from Srebrenica to the village of Trnovo, 30min drive from Sarajevo then  marched into nearby forest and shot one by one. Days after the footage was shown at The Hague during the trial of Slobodan Milosevic, Medic was arrested. In 2007 he was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his participation in the murders.

At the time of the car accident, Medic was still serving a twenty year sentence for war crimes, at a correctional facility in Sremska Mitrovica. According to Serbian media, Medic was on provisional release, which he was granted for the holidays due to good behavior. Once the news was out about Medic´s death people started asking questions about what he was doing out of prison in the first place. Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) once headed  by one of Serbia’s leading human rights campaigners, Natasa Kandic. The same women responsible for tracking down and delivering the tape to both the Serbian war crimes prosecutor as well as the prosecution team at The Hague, pointed out  in their statement that by giving privileges to convicted war criminals such as Medic, those responsible were in fact trivializing the crimes committed and the suffering of the victims.

Humanitarian Law Center also pointed out that; among the countries of the former Yugoslavia who are faced with the legacy of war crimes, Serbia is the only country where war criminals at an early stage of serving prison sentences, receive privileges such as the right to an annual leave outside the prison, leave out to town, etc, as well as the right to celebrate annual holidays outside correctional facilities. HLC also pointed out in their statement that the legal regulations of the Republic of Serbia which determine the treatment of those convicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity do not correspond with the severity of these crimes, so that treatment of someone convicted of war crimes is determined on the basis of the same criteria as for example someone who is convicted for construction without a building permit. According to HLC given the current praxis of giving privileges to those convicted of war crimes and other serious criminal offenses Serbian institutions were trivializing war crime trials and cruelly betraying the victims’ right to justice. HLC demanded that the  responsible authorities made the rules for granting convicted war criminals privileges more strict.

Serbian author Bojan Toncic was more direct in his criticism of the current treatment of convicted war criminals in Serbia. In a column for the Serbian portal E-Novine right after the accident that killed Medic  his son and wife, Toncic stated the following:

After the accident in which the main villain lost his life “while on leave” one has to ask the question; How good does a monster´s behavior have to be, in order to as someone sentenced to the harshest penalty in the land ( The sentence of twenty years was at the time of the crime a substitute for death by firing squad ) in order for him to receive free weekends and go to New Year’s celebration and one has to wonder what kind of treatment do prisoners that have been convicted of lesser crimes receive? Judging from the circumstances, what we are dealing here is a kind of unauthorized, but above all insensitive despising of “justice” after the fact (fact being a twenty year sentence) by the warden of the correctional facility. A kind of optional sentence in anticipation of the conditions for early release. In other words, this is a scandal that requires the reaction of the Directorate for Execution of Criminal Sanctions and the Minister of Justice.

However there is no point in acting too astonished by the treatment of Slobodan Medic. A man that personifies (He´s not alone) Serbian aggression against Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The treatment of a commander of a formation stained by war crimes in Kosovo is not that surprising at all given the fact that we live in a country that for years, regardless of who is in charge has pampered to and tried to improve the image of war criminals, all in the name of “the people” and an innocence in which nobody really believes in. That is the kind of punishment that is preferred for Serbs- those indicted by ICTY and those already convicted if one is to believe the current president Tomislav Nikolic and prime minister Ivica Dacic.

Scorpions were formed under the auspices of the Serbia´s Ministry of the Interior (MUP)  one of those who participated in the creation of the unit was Radovan Stojicic Badza, a police general who rose to prominence during Milosevic´s regime together with Franko Simatovic and Jovica Stanisic. The first commander of the unit was Milan Milovanovic Mrgud, at that time one of the highest ranking officers of the Serbian MUP.

Toncic also pointed to fact that during the trial of Petar Petrasevic, one of the other killers from Trnovo,  Petrasevic had expressed remorse for the murders and admitted his own guilt. “I killed six Muslims, before god I am most certainly guilty. I was following orders” to the mothers of dead who were following the trial, Petrasevic said; “Mothers I will tell you this historic sentence, we killed them because they were Muslims and for that it´s probably better if I was left lying on that same grass as them”

Just before the murders, one of the killers hit one of the Bosniaks in the head, cursing at him and insulting him, “What are you shaking for you motherfucker” as well as; “look at this one, he shit his pants” After that Scorpions executed three of the prisoners, while the cameraman looked for the spare battery. The last two were killed after they were forced to carry the corpses of those that had been executed before them. In the footage you can hear, one of the killers ask “if anyone wants to shoot” and to be careful and not shoot at the wall. As well as, “wait, wait I want to get this on film” “Wait I have three bullets left”, “This one is still breathing, for fuck´s sake” One the tape, you can also hear Aleksandar Medic, brother of Slobodan Medic talk to one of the prisoners, asking the prisoner, an underage boy if he had ever had sex, and then saying; “and you never will.”

Genocide Denial and the Need for Maintaining Necessary Illusions

Srebrenica Genocide
Srebrenica Genocide

It is utterly depressing having to write about Bosnian Genocide and the subsequent denial of it by those that have inherited the policy of discrimination based on political racial and religious ground which was the trademark of Slobodan Milosevic main client; Radovan Karadzic and his Republika Srpska, yet here we are. Still I guess it´s only logical. Republika Srpska foundations are based on lies, and in order for the lie to survive it has to become true. It´s depressing for a number of reasons, mostly because it´s clear now that the effect of that policy now 18 years after the Dayton Accords is far from being defeated or reversed, instead it´s is becoming institutionalized. That alternate image has now become a reality in 49 percent of the country. Why else would we now, twenty years after the beginning of the war, and eighteen years after the single biggest massacre on European soil after Second World War have people at the highest levels of political life in Bosnia and Herzegovina deny basic facts about the war and the genocide in Srebrenica? It can be argued that the current Bosnian Serb political leadership believes that the very existence of the entity Republika Srpska depends on being able to create an alternate image of what happened during the Bosnian War, who did what to whom, who started it and who committed the biggest number of atrocities and above all why? A justification for it´s very existence is needed.

The border created at the US air force base in Ohio that divided Bosnia and Herzegovina and in effect stopped the Bosnian Army from liberating the country has now become a mental border dividing Bosnians along ethnic lines, even though Dayton was never meant to be permanent in the first place. It was designed to reverse the effects of “ethnic cleansing” caused by the Serbian and Bosnian Serb onslaught on Eastern, and North-West Bosnia. It was also intended to lead to something more permanent and more stable, but above all it was a way of ending or halting the war, in the end it put too much faith in the same people that worked to destroy Bosnia and Herzegovina in the first place. Looking back at it; Dayton was the worst kind of appeasement. In effect it in rewarded aggression, “ethnic cleansing” and genocide. It rewarded the policies of Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic; those two men despite both of them eventually ending up in The Hague were the real winners in Dayton. The strategy that Milosevic and a cadre of JNA generals had developed and that was on the ground implemented by the political leadership of Radovan Karadzic and military leadership of Ratko Mladic meant to create a “State for all Serbs” a Greater Serbia meant in effect that only Serbs remain west of the Drina River. For that to become reality non-Serbs had to be physically removed.

In order to achieve that the Yugoslav Army joined forces with Serbian nationalists and extremists loyal to Radovan Karadzic, together with Serbian security forces as well as paramilitary units from Serbia and attacked towns and hamlets across eastern Bosnia, in a few weeks most of eastern Bosnia was in Serb hands and Serb forces backed by the Yugoslav Army were tightening their grip on Sarajevo. Only a few towns remained in eastern Bosnia, Srebrenica, Gorazde, Zepa and the hamlets of Cerska and Konjevic Polje. As spring turned into summer, those places would become isolated and filled with refugees and survivors from other towns in eastern Bosnia. Places like Bjeljina,Vlasenica, Visegrad, Bratunac, Rudo, Cajnice, Foca, Rogatica Zvornik. They had been witnesses too and many of them had escaped death. They told stories of mass executions, rape camps, sexual slavery, torture, eliticide, and all out destruction. All that was Muslim, or Bosniak or rather non-Serb had to be wiped of the map.

The same was taking place in northern and north-west Bosnia. Towns of Prijedor, Kozarac, Sanski Most, Trnopolje, Omarska would soon become synonymous with terror and death.

The past is never far away in Bosnia and that the Bosnian society has yet to come to terms with what happened during the war. Now when I say “Bosnian society” I mean all parts of it, including Republika Srpska as much as some, above all the current political leadership spearheaded by pragmatist and opportunist turned nationalist, separatist and genocide denier Milorad Dodik would like to convince others but above all the Serbs in Republika Srpska that it´s not. He has said openly that he will never accept that what happened in Srebrenica was an act of genocide, most recently, in september of 2012 during an election rally for his party SNSD in Srebrenica, he stood at the podium and said that he did not believe that what had happened in the very town that he was in, was in fact genocide. Yet the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at The Hague has thus far, convicted four people for genocide in Srebrenica, Radislav Krstic the former commander of the Bosnian Serb Army´s Drina Corps, as well as high ranking officers Ljubisa Beara and Vujadin Popvic and most recently Zdravko Tolimir, Ratko Mladic´s head of military intelligence. Radovan Karadzic and Mladic are both currently on trial for crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, amongst those crimes are persecution kidnapping murder and genocide.

In 2007 the ICJ (International Court of Justice) ruled that what had happened in Srebrenica indeed was genocide and that not only was it genocide but that Serbia was in a position to stop the genocide but had failed to do so. Most recently Bosnian courts ruled that Zeljko Ivanovic was guilty of aiding and abetting genocide by participating in the mass execution of over 1000 captured Bosniaks in the village of Kravica. In 2011 Bosnian Court uppheld the guilty verdict of one Milorad Trbic, he had been a member of the Zvornik Brigade in the Army of Republika Srpska. Trbic was found guilty of the criminal offence of genocide, as a participant in a joint criminal enterprise, in the period from 12 July to 30 November 1995, together with Colonel Ljubisa Beara, Lieutenant Colonel Vujadin Popovic, Lieutenant Drago Nikolic and others, with a common purpose and a plan to capture, detain, summarily execute and bury all able-bodied Bosniak men from the Srebrenica enclave, who were brought to the Zvornik Brigade area of responsibility. His sentence of 30 years was uppheld. Trbic was transferred from the Hague to stand trial in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Outside of Srebrenica, leader of a Serb paramilitary group operating in the Doboj region; Nikola Jorgic was found guilty of the crime of genocide by a German court in 1997. Jorgic was sentenced to four terms of life imprison for his involvement in the Bosnian genocide. Pronouncing the verdict, the German Federal Court said that German courts had the right “to try genocide indictees, no matter where the crime was committed”. Jorgic appealed the decision to the European Court of Human Rights which dismissed Jorgic´s claim and found that the standards used by the German court were indeed valid.

On 29th of November 1999 the Higher Regional Court (Oberlandesgericht) in Dusseldorf convicted a Bosnian Serb Paramilitary leader Maksim Sokolovic to 9 years in prison for aiding and abetting the crime of genocide and for grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions in the Kalesija region. Sokolovic appealed the conviction claiming that the court in Dusseldorf had no jurisdiction over his case; however the Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof) rejected Sokolovic´s argument since the crimes of which he was accused of fall under the principle of universal jurisdiction. As a consequence, a foreigner could be tried by a German court for crime of genocide committed on foreign territory.

Yet that has not stopped Milorad Dodik, in 2011 he announced that he would be setting up a fund in order to help those Bosnian Serbs that were on trial at the ICTY including Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic. He also complimented Karadzic, saying he “made mistakes, but should be credited for establishing Republika Srpska. RS was founded because of his courage.” He has during his time in office spent a great deal of tax funds on denying the basic facts about the Genocide in Srebrenica using the help of a group of Hague based pseudo-experts calling themselves The Srebrenica Historical Project and is registered as an NGO ( Non-Government-Organization) sadly for him those experts have yet to present any concrete evidence refuting the facts about the genocide, facts established during a 17-year period. The outfit´s front man is a Serb-American from Seattle called Stephan Karganovic.

Prior to establishing himself as the front figure of  “The Srebrenica Historical Project” he had worked as a translator and was member of the convicted war criminal Momcilo Krajisnik´s defense team, in the Hague before promoting himself as a “truth teller” refuting the “myth of genocide” in fact he has as I said before yet to prove anything, but that´s not why he is where he is.

People like Karganovic serve a purpose, in reality nobody, not even Milorad Dodik expects him to actually prove anything, he can´t. If he could you would have heard about it long ago. He is however expected to maintain the illusion that Serbia, and Republika Srpska are innocent victims of conspiracy intended to keep Serbia and Serbs at bay. And that what is going on is a continued aggression against Serbia by ”Western Imperialists”, the USA, Great Britain, CIA, the Vatican, IMF, Germany and their agents and ”homegrown traitors” the Croats and Bosniaks intent on keeping Serbia and Serbs at heel, one way is to falsely accuse them of committing genocide and hence becoming ”a genocidal nation” on par with Germany, a concern expressed by the godfather of contemporary Serb nationalism Dobrica Cosic in 2010 right about the same time as the Serbian Assembly was preparing to vote on European parliament’s resolution condemning the genocide in Srebrenica, Cosic claimed that ”Serbia should never accept the lies about Serbs committing genocide in Bosnia’, because this would make the Serbs a genocidal nation on a par with Nazi Germany”. (Pecat, 12 February 2010.)

The most telling example of Srebrenica Historical project’s real purpose could be seen during Pelemis/Simic trial.

The two men were accused of involvement in the mass killings that took place in the villages of Pilica and Branjevo after the fall of Srebrenica. Karganovics neuro-forensic expert Ljubisa Simic participated as an “expert witness” for Slavko Perics defense in order to refute the DNA-identifications that had been conducted on the remains in Branjevo. Under cross-examination by State Prosecutor Erik Larson, neurosurgeon Simic, who testified in his in the role as a medical expert, said that; “his name was not included on the list of court experts, he has not passed a specialist exam and he had not testified at any trial before. He confirmed that no organization had certified him as an expert witness in forensic medicine, pathology, or DNA analysis. He had not participated in any exhumations, had never had performed an autopsy on his own and he had never performed an identification using DNA analysis. Simic confirmed that he worked for the “Srebrenica Historical Project” but could not confirm that his role in the organization was to deny the genocide in Srebrenica. “I deal with medical issues at that organization,” Simic said. (See: Pelemis/Peric trial 2012)

Most recently Karganovic could be found harrasing American journalist and fellow at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) Michael Dobbs on Dobbs’ Foreign Policy Blog “Origins of Evil” a blog devoted to Ratko Mladic and the genocide in Srebrenica. Dobbs´s plan was to more or less devote most of his time digging into Mladic´s past and slowly blogpost by blogpost explain the “origins of evil”, simply put; Dobbs wanted to show what led Mladic and the Bosnian Serbs to commit the single biggest atrocity on European Soil since World War Two. Sadly Dobbs approach left a lot to be desired, in my opinion his efforts were lackluster and feeble and many of his posts were frankly pointless, and sub-tabloid level.

His naïve and let´s say “uninvolved” approach led him down some strange paths, and it all culminated last September when he was criticized by myself and others for his naive views on militant Serb nationalism and Slobodan Milosevic´s expansionist policies and deadly experiments with nationalism that ended in the violent death of Yugoslavia and more importantly in the death of thousands that stood in the way of Milosevic´s attempts to carve out a Greater Serbia and a state for all Serbs on the ruins of former Yugoslavia. Now Yugoslavia, would have most likely fallen apart anyway, as a direct consequence of the fall of communism in Europe, but few would disagree that if it hadn´t been for Milosevic that breakup would have gone peacefully. As for Dobbs, well he tried but simply did not have anything interesting or relevant to say on Mladic or Srebrenica.

To Dobbs credit he did however try to stand up to Karganovic and his associates who plagued the comments section and used it as forum to spew out their conspiracy theories and revisionism. Dobbs had at his disposal the large amount of research and documentation collected on the genocide in Srebrenica over the past 17-years. In one glorious moment last July he pointed out to the fact that Karganovic´s outfit had by then ( July 2012) received in total 1 million US dollars from the government of Republika Srpska and that the nature of The Srebrenica Historical project was to perpetuate genocide denial. in July 2012 Dobbs wrote the following:

It turns out that genocide denial has a price tag — and a hefty one at that. Financial records from the Bosnian Serb entity known as Republika Srpska reveal that a Hague-based group of pseudo-experts that calls itself the “Srebrenica Historical Project” has received more than $1 million from the cash-strapped mini-state over the past five years. Question, and in many cases deny, basic historical facts concerning massacres carried out by Bosnian Serb forces under the command of General Ratko Mladic in July 1995.

An exhaustive international investigation of the Srebrenica events, involving teams of forensic pathologists, DNA specialists, demographic experts, and detectives has established that Bosnian Serb forces murdered around 7,000 Muslim (Bosniak) prisoners in a series of massacres between July 12 and July 16, 1995. A further 1,000 or so Muslim men and boys were killed as a result of ambushes and armed clashes as they tried to reach Muslim-controlled territory north of Srebrenica.

What is most alarming about the Srebrenica Historical Project is not that there are people out there claiming that black is white, but that the denial industry is being financed by the Bosnian Serb authorities. A rough analogy might be the German government and parliament voting every year to fund the research of David Irving and other revisionist Holocaust historians.

As British journalist George Monbiot pointed out 2012 ; “In order for these people to be right the entire canon of serious scholarship, human rights investigations, exhumations and witness statements would have to be wrong. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. But they offer little but the recycled claims of genocidaires and genocide deniers, mashed up with their own misrepresentations” In his response to another set of Milosevic apologist and genocide deniers. Those of the internationalist left, most notably Edward Herman and David Peterson, as well as Noam Chomsky and John Pilger.

Needless to say, Dobbs article drew fire from Karganovic and rest of the creepy-crawlies of the “Great Serb” genocide-denial lobby that quickly rushed to the comment section to attack him, and that is where Karganovic and his sympathizers are most at home. People like Karganovic look for certain things, that they can isolate and latch on too, picking selective portions of evidence and deliberately miss-quoting witnesses in order to spread doubt, They cater to a specific kind of crowd, people like Karganovic, Nebojsa Malic, Srdja Trifkovic. None of their followers really demand of them to present any evidence for their theories but then again they don´t really have to try very hard. They tend to preach to the choir, of Serb nationalists, far-right extremists, people that hate the west or ”anti-imperialists” conspiracy theorists and and ideologues to whom human life is less valuable then the notion of a “Yugoslavia as the last socialist country in the Balkans” under threat from “The Empire” meaning the west and above all the hated USA. These are the kind of people that deny Srebrenica happened at the same time as they secretly and sometime not so secretly glorify and/or openly justify that it did happened. Simply because they wanted the Serbs and their cause to win. Nevermind the victims of Serb fascism…

The most extreme example of that is Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist whose Balkan obsession and his hatred towards Islam and Muslims spills out over the pages of his manifesto 2083: A European Declaration of Independence. A look thru the manifesto shows that he had a unhealthy obsession with the Balkans and admiration for the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic who Breivik considers to be a “honorable Crusader and a European war hero” for his efforts to rid Europe of Muslims. (Radovan Karadzic is currently on trial same as Ratko Mladic for crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and crimes that were perpetrated against the civilian population and against places of worship throughout the territory of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovinia, ) As well revealing that altogether, the words “Serb” shows up 341 times, “Bosnia” 343 and “Albania” 208 times while Srebrenica, the site of the biggest massacre in former Yugoslavia after WWII does not appear anywhere in the document.

To Breivik, Radovan Karadzic is a hero, and his delusions mirror those of others on the far right, and Serb nationalist circles in the sense that they view what happened in Bosnia and Herzegovina as a struggle against ”the genocidal hate ideology known as Islam”  as Breivik puts it. In that sense all the atrocities committed against Muslims or Bosniaks in Bosnia can be explained away and justified by the need to get rid of Islam and Muslims. The murder of men women elderly, the rape of women and young girls, torture, setting up of concentration camps and mass killings and deportation perpetrated against a specific groups are justifiable as self-defense as long it´s committed against a feared and hated enemy that has to be eliminated in order to protect Serbs and Serbia against “Muslim genocide” or in Breiviks case Europe and Western Civilization. Therefore people like Karadzic and Mladic are heros and crusaders and any crimes they might have committed against non-Muslims are regrettable or as Breivik himself puts it:

He (Karadzic) even went as far as offering the Muslims certain enclaves. When they refused he wanted to deport them by force. When this was made impossible by NATO he gave the order to fight the person who refused which was his sovereign right and responsibility as one of the primary leaders of Serb forces. This was never about ethnicity but about ridding the country of the genocidal hate ideology known as Islam. I do condemn any atrocities committed against Croats and vice versa but for his efforts to rid Serbia of Islam he will always be considered and remembered as an honorable Crusader and a European war hero.

Oddly enough he is sort of right that it was never really about ethnicity, when it came to the actual reasons for the war, but not for the reasons he thinks, it was not about ridding Europe of Islam but a simple land grab, orchestrated by Milosevic his close associates and a cadre of JNA generals in Belgrade loyal to Milosevic, who´s prime motive was power, if he could not make himself ruler of Yugoslavia, then he would be the creater of a new “Greater” Serbia as a home for all Serbs. There was however a need to convince people, above all Serbs and to instill fear into them about ”the others” mainly Bosniaks, Slovenes, Croats and Kosovars. For that there was a need to control the media in former Yugoslavia. As Borisav Jovic, a former Milosevic aid and probably his closest associate wrote in his book, ”The Last Days of SFRY”

For years, he (Milosevic) paid the biggest attention to the media, especially television. He personally appointed editors-in-chief of the newspapers and news programmers – especially directors-general of radio and television. “Perhaps in no other area was he in direct communication with all editors who “fed” the public with the news comments and generally with the information. He was deeply convinced that citizens formed their view not on basis of their real material and their political position what was not published has not happened at all – was Milosevic`s motto

During the Milosevic trial the Trial Chamber heard from Professor Renaud de la Brosse, a propaganda expert from the University of Reims in France who took the stand as part of the prosecution’s effort to prove a link between what the media said and war crimes perpetrated on the battlefield. de la Brosse had studied some 20,000 pages of newspaper articles, transcripts of television and radio broadcast from the former Yugoslavia in order to produce his 100-page raport called; “Political Propaganda and the Plan to Create a State for all Serbs”

According to de la Brosse; Milosevic’s propaganda was based on the same techniques as used by Adolf Hitler, with the added power of television. ”Nazi propaganda had shown that myths bind the masses together tightly. Indeed, it was through myths and, therefore, the appeal to the forces of the unconscious, to fear and terror, the instinct of power and the lost community that the propaganda orchestrated by Goebbels had succeeded in winning over the Germans and melding them into a compact mass”

In 1990 in order to facilitate Slobodan Milosevic´s takeover of control of Kosovo, Serbian television launched a campaign of generalizations and lies against the Kosovars, accusing them of “poisoning wells” and “slitting throats of children” and then following it up with a campaign in the newspaper Politika which published readers’ letters, often made up, by Politika staff that “the Albanians  were raping hundreds of Serb women there” . On February 9 1990 Vojislav K. Stojanovic president of the University Teachers and Scholars of Serbia wrote that “the savage Albanian terrorists are now running amok in Kosovo and Metohija destroying anything that is Serbian, breaking into homes of the few Serbs that have stayed behind, Kosovo and Metohija are in the grip of fear by terrorists armed to the teeth.”

Even Slobodan Milosevic participated in the stigmatization of the Kosovar community by proclaiming that “Even children know the truth about Kosovo and Serbia, so it´s quit superfluous to say anything more about it. To those that think otherwise, I should say that I refuse to talk about because we need never to try and find excuses to stop the murder of Serbs and Montenegrins in Kosovo and for our unwillingness to accept an Albanian state on Serbian territory. To avoid further confusion I hasten to add that anyone seeking concessions along those lines would have to first depose the ruling Serbian leadership”

Another example of propaganda “winning over the Serbs and melding them into a compact mass,” that de la Brosse Points too is the is the story of the so called “baby-massacre” from November 1991, in a suburb close to Vukovar, called Borovo Naselje. As the siege of Vukovar was drawing to an end Serbian media reported that soldiers from the JNA had found the bodies of 41 massacred Serbian children, in village that had fallen days before. The story turned out to be untrue, and even the JNA was forced to issue a public denial, yet it was given widespread coverage by the Milosevic controlled media, who did not try to verify the story of the children having their “throats slit by blood thirsty Croats” even though all of the children had in fact been evacuated from that village months before and no schools had been open for a long time in that area.

That was not important, the story served a purpose, and it was there to enforce the image of Croats as “bloodthirsty genocidal maniacs” and undermines those that were opposed to the war. In fact when the story broke, a number of anti-war demonstrations were taking place in Belgrade. People in Serbia, above all parents who had family members serving in the JNA were opposed the ongoing campaign in Croatia. The story did well to silence those that opposed the war, and it would also lead to a flood of Serb volunteers going to the Croatian front.

Another such example was the story of Serb children being fed to lions at the Sarajevo Zoo. The story goes that due to the siege of Sarajevo; for which “the bloody thirsty Muslims” in Sarajevo were themselves responsible, there was a shortage of food and other supplies in the city so the Muslims were feeding Serbian children to the starving lions. The “news” was carried by TV Pale, and Risto Djogo, the official voice of the Karadzic regime. The news was also picked up by Serbian media, SRNA and TANJUG reported the story with any sort of checks being made in order to verify the story. Viewers in Belgrade got to see and above all hear on the 19:30 news that; “The Muslim extremists have come up with the world’s most horrible way of torturing people. Last night they threw Serb children to the lions at the local zoo, reports the Serb patrol”

In 1994 Serbian newspaper Vecernje Novosti published a story about a Serb orphan whose whole family was killed by Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) in the area around Srebrenica. The story came with a photo of the boy, lying down next to what was described as his family´s grave, the text under the photo read; “The biggest casualties of war are children, that is the case as well in this most recent one, a one in which the Serbian people are again fighting for their very existence. The picture which had the year before circulated the globe, is that of a graveyard in Skelani, (near Srebrenica) on which this boy, now an orphan is crying on the graves of his mother father and rest of his family, “that were killed in a Muslim offensive” is still shocking those who know about the suffering of children. The boy has however in the meantime been adopted by a family in Zvornik and is a member of a military school”

The photo was in fact a forgery, in reality it is a 19th century oil painting by Serbian painter Uros Predic known as ”Orphan Upon His Mother’s Grave”, it was painted in 1879, the painting was made as an illustration for a poem by Hungarian poet Janos Arany.

Orphan Upon His Mothers Grave by Uros Predic, to the left and Vecernje Novosti Picture to the right. Courtesy of Srebrenica Genocide Blog.
Orphan Upon His Mothers Grave by Uros Predic, to the left and Vecernje Novosti Picture to the right. Courtesy of Srebrenica Genocide Blog.

If one were to de-construct the text under the “photo” or the painting it go something like this, in order convince people in Serbia about righteousness of their cause, there is no better way of doing that then focusing on the suffering of small children in this case a small boy, abandoned and helpless whose parents were only killed because they were Serbs. And that their struggle is now much like it was in past wars justified, since they are simply struggling to survive and fighting a ruthless enemy bent on destroying the whole of the Serb nation. By adding that the picture circulated the globe, which is not true, and that it caused outrage and shock, it even more re-affirms that the Serbian cause is just, and there is hope and that they should not give up the fight, since the poor boy isn’t going to, there is after all a silver lining; he has enlisted in military high school.

The situation was of course drastically different in the Srebrenica region, then Vecernje Novosti led the Serb public to believe nowhere was at as bad as in Eastern Bosnia and in particular the area around Srebrenica. From the beginning of the war the town had been isolated from the rest of Bosnian-controlled territory. It was one of few towns’ hamlets and villages that had escaped the onslaught of the Yugoslav Army and various Serb paramilitary units that had made their way from Serbia to join forces with nationalists and extremists loyal to Radovan Karadzic. The other ones in the area were Cerska and Konjevic Polje, and to the south Zepa and further along the Drina river Gorazde. In November 1992 Radovan Karadzic signed Directive 4 ordering the Drina corps of the Bosnian Serb army to engage the enemy with the intent of; “wearing out the enemy and forcing them to leave Srebrenica, Zepa and Gorazde areas together with the inhabitants…” The plan was implemented during the month of January 1993, slowly Bosnian Serb forces with the help of the Yugoslav Army chipped away at the territory that Bosnians had managed to defend during the initial invasion of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Altogether some 10 000 Bosnian Serb Soldiers with the help of the reformed Yugoslav Army (VJ) participated in the offensive on the isolated Bosniak enclaves. Two of the smallest enclaves fell in March 1993, Cerska and Konjevic Polje after bitter fighting, the Bosnian defenders isolated and without access to food or ammunition were forced to retreat together with civilians, women children and elderly into Srebrenica which was slowly becoming the world´s biggest refugee camp with some 40 000 people trapped inside.

One of those that witnessed what was going on in Srebrenica was former Venezuealan ambassador to the UN, Diego Arria. He testified as defense witness at the trial of the Bosnian commander in the enclave Naser Oric and as a prosecution witness at the trial of Slobodan Milosevic. Arria arrived in Srebrenica in April 1993. According to Arria, what was taking place in Srebrenica then was a form of “genocide in slow motion” Bosniaks in Srebrenica and surrounding villages  were exposed to “extreme poverty, destruction, starvation and squalor” that were according to Arria deliberately being withheld from the public by the UN. Arria managed to take the first photographs of of the destruction of Srebrenica and its starving inhabitants. Hundreds of people that had fled the surrounding villages were now living on the streets of Srebrenica, a town that before the war had some 8000 inhabitants. To stay warm they burned trash, plastic bags, and everything else they could get their hands on, as the children wandered thru the streets, shivering in their tattered sweaters and worn out shoes and smelling of excrament and smoke and sweat. The photographs taken by Arria were the only ones in existence at the time. He refused to hand over his camera to UN troops in Srebrenica. According to Arria the international community “did not move its little finger” to protect the Bosniaks in the enclave and “did not make it possible for them to defend themselves”

In fact the UN was withholding reports that showed the true situation in Srebrenica. For that Arria blames UN Secratery General Boutros Ghali and his staff who according to Arria misinformed the Security Council about the situation in the enclave. It was not until after an appeal by the then UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata that the report on the humanitarian disaster in Srebrenica was shown to the Security Council. Diego Arria warned of a “potential massacre in which there could be 25,000 victims.” Arria went on to say; “it was clear that it was just a matter of time before the massacre would happen” or before the “slow-motion genocide” would become a “real genocide.” The United Nations, according to Arria; was unwilling to do anything to prevent that.

The reason for that is that there was in the tendency in The Security Council to as Arria puts it  “morally equate the victims and the aggressor” the reason for that was that it made it more simple not to take action to prevent the atrocities, if you gave the impression that all sides are equally at fault, well then why should the International Community intervene on anyone´s behalf? In fact according to Arria the UN had been hoping that the Serbs would overrun the enclave, before it became a “safe area” and thus “solving the problem” the fact that the Bosnian defenders saw things differently created a problem for the UN. On April 16 after heavy fighting the Bosnian lines held. Naser Oric and his men had launched a desperate counter-attack in the hills above Srebrenica with the few artillary shells they had left and manged to push the Serbs back, on that same day  Srebrenica was declared a “safe area” with an ambivalent UN tasked to protect it if Serb forces tried to re-take it. That ambivalence was on full display in July 1995 as was the willingness of the international community to end the arms embargo against Bosnia…

Or as former British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd put it; “lifting the arms embargo would only create a level killing field” a statement that prompted a response from a retired Margaret Thatcher who pointed to the obvious, the fact that there was already in Europe a killing field in Bosnia “killing field the like of which I thought we would never see in Europe again It is in Europe’s sphere of influence. It should be in Europe’s sphere of conscience”. The arms embargo imposed on the countries in the former Yugoslavia only hurt one country, and that was Bosnia, Croatia could easily purchase weapons despite the embargo from any of the neighboring countries, and Serbia, well it had inherited the vast arsenal of the former Yugoslav People´s Army which was flowing freely across the border into the hands of the Bosnian Serbs. The chief opposition to arming the defending Bosnian Army or lifting the arms embargo came from UK and France, according to Robert Hunter, the former US ambassador to NATO; Britain has the greatest responsibility when it comes to this, “they carry a huge burden of responsibility for what happened at Srebrenica.” claimed Hunter.

The Americans had tried to ease the arms embargo against the Bosnian Army, the new administration under Clinton had sought to at least “relax” the arms embargo which they considered was punishing the weakest, most victimized nation; Bosnia and Herzegovina. Unlike the Serbs and Croats in Bosnia which had the support of Croatia and Serbia, the Bosnian Army was hopelessly landlocked. The Bosnian government wanted the arms embargo lifted in order to defend it people and country, but according to Clinton, his proposals for the relaxation of the arms embargo were blocked by US allies in Europe. Mainly the UK and France.

According to Clinton the offical reason they gave was that that as Douglas Hurd said before it would create a “level killing field” more guns in the area meant more bloodshed. However according to Clinton the real reason for the objection was the fact that Bosnia as a predominantly Muslim country would be “unnatural” in Europe. In Taylor Branchs book “The Clinton Tapes” (2009) Clinton discussed openly the role US European allies played in the destruction of Bosnia and Herzegovina. They wanted the arms embargo precisely because it locked in Bosnia´s disadvantage. What´s even worse according to Clinton was that they used the UN forces on the ground as an excuse, claiming that the options the Clinton administration proposed in order to save the Bosnian state and stop the ongoing genocide would endanger UN troops on the ground as well as jeopardizing emergency shipments of food and medical supplies that were being delivered to a population that was on a daily basis being subjected to a terror campaign and was not allowed to defend itself. In other words; the UN troops in Bosnia were being used in order to facilitate the dismemberment of the Bosnian state.

Clinton claimed that French president Francois Mitterrand had said to him that “Bosnia quite simply did not belong,” and that British diplomats in private spoke of a “painful but realistic restoration of Christian Europe” Such Anti-Muslim and bigoted views could of course not be uttered openly but it shows why the carnage and the dismemberment of the Bosnian state was allowed to happen. Bosnia and Herzegovina or more to the point a predominantly “Muslim Bosnia” did not belong and as painful as it was, it had to disappear. That´s where the biggest betrayal of Bosnia and Herzegovina lied, in their fear of a “Muslim Bosnia” French and British diplomats had missed the fact that at the beginning of the war some 25-30 percent of the Bosnian Army consisted of non-Muslims or non-Bosniaks, that at the highest levels of command, there were both Serbs and Croats, people like Jovan Divjak, Stjepan Siber, Zeljko Knez a Croat who was the first Commander of the Bosnian Army´s Second Corps, Divjak a Serb was the Bosnian Army´s second in command, there were also men like Dragan Vikic, (a Croat) Head of the interior ministry, Zoran Cegar his deputy, (a Serb) but above all those anonymous soldiers manning the trenchers, together with Bosniak soldiers, forced to fight with their hands tied behind their back depending on what they could beg steal or borrow, or more accurately what they could capture from the Serb nationalists who had no such problems, they had come to the war armed to the teeth courtesy of the former Yugoslav People´s Army.

The diplomats had also missed or decided to ignore people like, Stjepan Kljuic, Gordana Knezevic, Mirko Pejanovic to name a few more prominent non-Bosniaks who in their own way fought and still fight for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Those are of course the more prominent ones as is the case with the Bosnian Army soldiers many unnamed heroes fought and still fight the good fight. They were, we were all betrayed and for every shell that was fired and for every day the embargo was in effect the very fabric of Bosnian society was being ripped apart. So yes, it was indeed painful.

However nowhere was as painful as it was in Srebrenica, heroic Srebrenica that had withstood the initial Serb onslaught, it had withstood the intial invasion of Serbian forces into Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Karadzic´s extremists and the genocidal campaign that followed. It had whitstood the final solution sanctioned by France and Great Britain which had cleared most of the Drina valley north-west Bosnia, eastern Bosnia of its non-Serb population, it had become a safe haven for those that had escaped certain death, those that had escaped rape camps, and torture from all across the Drina Valley as well as other parts of eastern Bosnia, it was together with Zepa and Gorazde the last of the free territory in eastern Bosnia.

The fact is that the picture of the “Orphaned Boy” published in Vecernje Novosti was there to mobilize and galvanize the Serb people against their enemy. It is also a way of inciting hate that can have, and has had horrible consequences. It´s not difficult to understand Serbs reading, listening and above all watching the reports coming in from Croatia and Bosnia about various atrocities committed against Serbs by Bosniaks and Croats, wanting to take revenge on the perpetrators. According to de la Brosse Serbian media used certain words to stir up defensive reaction amongst the Serbs. Words like “Ustasha Fascists” and “cut-throats” were used to stigmatize Croats and “Islamic Ustasha” or “Jihad Fighters” to stigmatize the Bosniaks. de la Brosse also pointed to the fact that the JNA (Yugoslav People´s Army) had during the fighting in Croatia issued memos ordering that all enemies be called “Ustasha”.

During the genocidal campaign in Bosnia and Herzegovina the Serbian Television, according to de la Brosse more or less banished the use of the word ”Bosnian” or more to the point ”Bosnian Forces” On August 17 1992 Serbian journalist Branko Elez called Bosnian forces;”Islamic Fundamentalists” ”Islamic Chauvinists” and branded them as”cruel hordes of Alija” (Alija Izetbegovic, the Bosnian president)

Bosnian Army soldiers were referred to as; ”Warriors of Allah” armed by Saddam Hussein, ”conducting a holy war in the name of Islam” even though Saddam Hussein had established a secular dictatorship in Iraq, but that did not matter, most Serbs did not know the nature of Saddam Hussein´s regime, they did however know that he was a Muslim, and an Arab and that would for some be enough. Ironically  Saddam Hussein and Muamar Gadafi had on several occasions  bought weapons and jet engines including  spare parts from Milosevic´s regime and his cronies in Republika Srpska as well as playing host to Vojislav Seselj, the leader of the Serb Radical Party back in 2001 when Seselj along with a delegation from the Serb Radical Party including current Serbian prime minister Aleksandar Vucic visited Iraq.

In June 1993 Swedish journalist Peter Kadhammar traveled to Pale, the former ski-resort that during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina served as war-time capitol of Republika Srpska. Kadhammars first impression of Mladic was that of a commander at the very peak of his power, he exuded self-confidence and it was obvious that he was the most powerful man in the Bosnian Serb Army. “ I am the Cassius Clay of war” he claimed “ I can knock anybody out, but I am a merciful man” According to Kadhammar he loved to talk about his victories and how he back then in 1993 was in the control of the fate of the Bosniak population in Srebrenica. Kadhammar recalls that Mladic as a joke suggested to Kadhammar that the Bosniak (Muslim) population of Bosnia and Herzegovina would be better of relocating the Swedish archipelago, and the world was conspiring against the Serbs. This whole war was a conspiracy against the Serbs. At one point, Kadhammar asked Mladic if he knew how many people had been killed by Mladic´s men in Sarajevo, Mladic´s response was “that those were not people, those are Muslims”

After the Serb takeover of Prijedor, a town in northwest Bosnia, the Serb-controlled media in Prijedor both broadcast and printed media spread stories about non-Serbs, particularly a doctor named Mirsad Mujadzic who was a member of the SDA, the main Bosniak political party in Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to the reports in the Serb-controlled media, Dr Mujadzic was accused of “injecting drugs into Serb women making them incapable of giving birth to male children” Another doctor, a Croat named Zeljko Sikora referred to as the “Monster Doctor”, was accused of making Serb women abort if they were pregnant with male children and of castrating the male babies of Serb parents.

During the trial of Milomir Stakic, the former mayor of Serb-controlled Prijedor, the Trial Chamber saw proof that the weekly known as “Kozarski Vjesnik” became the voice of the local Serb authorities. The director of “Kozarski Vjesnik” and and “Radio Prijedor” Mile Mutic and journalist Rade Mutic regulary showed up at the meetings of the “Serbian Crisis Staff”, the “National Defence Council,” or the “Executive Committee” During the Stakic trial the prosecution tendered into evidence minutes of the Municipal Board of the SDS in Prijedor from 30 April 1991 session record showed that the Secretary of the Serbian Municipal Assembly, Dusan Baltic, put forward the opinion that “Kozarski Vjesnik” should be brought under the control of the SDS, Radovan Karadzic party. After the Serbian takeover of Prijedor, most of the articles were aimed at discrediting and undermining the credibility of prominent non-Serbs in Prijedor. In an article published on 10th on June 1992 Dr. Osman Mahmuljin (a Bosniak) was accused of deliberately having provided incorrect medical care to his Serb colleague Dr. Zivko Dukic, who had a heart attack. According to Kozarski Vjesnik; Dr. Dukic’s life was saved only because Dr. Radojka Elenkov (Serb) discontinued the therapy allegedly initiated by Dr. Mahmuljin.

Radio Prijedor also broadcasted forged “biographies of prominent non-Serbs”, including Prof. Muhamed Cehajic, Dr. Eso Sadikovic and Dr. Osman Mahmuljin in order to discredit them. According to the Trial Chamber, after the Serb takeover, Radio Prijedor mostly played Serb nationalist songs and broadcast propaganda against the main Bosniak party in Bosnia, the SDA and prominent non-Serbs characterizing them as “criminals and extremists who should be punished for their behavior”

Others frequently interviewed by “Radio Prijedor” were Milan Kovacevic Dusko Tadic and Simo Drljaca. Kovacevic was the President of the Executive Committee of the Municipal Assembly of Prijedor. In 1996 he was indicted by the ICTY for genocide, for complicity in genocide, extermination, persecutions, torture, deportation. For murder; cruel treatment; torture; wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity. For willful killing; torture; willfully causing great suffering; unlawful deportation or transfer; extensive destruction of property and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly. Kovacevic was indicted together with Simo Drljaca, who served as the chief of police in Prijedor. According to the indictment during the period from 30 April 1992 to 31 December 1992 Drljaca was both a member of the municipality of Prijedor Crisis Staff and the Chief of the Public Security Station (SJB) for the municipality of Prijedor.

According to the indictment Kovacevic and Drljaca ordered and implemented a plan designed to expel Bosniak and Croat population from what had been proclaimed to be “Serb Territory” The plan consisted limiting the movement of the Bosniak and Croat populations to their villages, and then ordering or initiating attacks on those areas by combined forces of the 43rd Brigade and other Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) units, Territorial Defence (TO) units from Prijedor, regular and reserve police members from Prijedor, and paramilitary units organized and equipped by the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS).

Those civilians captured in these attacks were usually taken to Omarska, Keraterm or Trnopolje which were called “detention camps” by the authorities but in fact resembled in many ways the  concentration camps set up in WWII by the Nazis, the prisoners in those camps were subjected to daily physical abuse, sexual abuse of both male and female prisoners as well as young girls. Torture and murder were also common place. According to the indictment, Serb forces under the control of the Prijedor Crisis Staff systematically looted and destroyed Bosniak and Croat villages and property, including homes, businesses, mosques and churches. The destruction was so extensive that nothing but portions of buildings and rubble were all that remained in many of villages of the area and not one mosque was left standing in the towns of Prijedor and Kozarac. To the detriment of the victims Milan Kovacevic died in 1998, not having received a verdict. Simo Drljaca, was killed in an attempt to arrest him in 1997 near Omarska.

Dusko Tadic who served as President of the Local Board of the Serb Democratic Party (SDS) in neighboring Kozarac was arrested in Germany in 1994 and transferred to the hague to stand trial, the Trial Chamber found convicted him of “Willful killing; torture or inhuman treatment; wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health” Tadic was also found guilty of participating in the in the forced transfer of civilians into “Detention Camps” or more appropriately concentration camps such as Omarska Trnopolje and Keraterm. The Tadic verdict was also the first legal confirmation that what happened in Bosnia and Herzegovina was indeed and International conflict. The Yugoslav Army was in fact in control of the Bosnian Serb Army, according to the Appeals Chamber verdict ;

Tadic, (Appeals Chamber), July 15, 1999, paras. 156, 162: “It is sufficient to show that [the Yugoslav Army] exercised overall control over the Bosnian Serb Forces. Such control manifested itself not only in financial, logistical and other assistance and support, but also, and more importantly, in terms of participation in the general direction, coordination and supervision of the activities and operations of the VRS [the Army ofthe Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina/Republika Srpska]. This sort of control is sufficient for the purposes of the legal criteria required by international law.” “[F]or the period material to this case (1992), the armed forces of the Republika Srpska were to be regarded as acting under the overall control of and on behalf of the FRY [the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro)]. Hence, even after 19 May 1992 the armed conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina between the Bosnian Serbs and the central authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina must be classified as an international armed conflict.” See also Tadic, (Appeals Chamber), July 15, 1999, para. 87.

Milomir Stakic who had been the Vice-President of the Prijedor Municipal Assembly as a member of the Serbian Democratic Party, was found guilty of murder, persecution, extermination and deportation, all crimes against humanity. Stakic rose to prominence, during the May 1992 Serb takeover of the municipality of Prijedor. According to the judgement;

the takeover was an illegal coup d’état which had been planned and coordinated for months and which had as its final goal the creation of a Serbian municipality eventually to form part of an envisaged pure Serbian state.
A comprehensive pattern of atrocities amounting to a campaign of a prosecutorial nature was proved to have been committed against non-Serbs in Prijedor municipality in 1992. This included killings on a massive scale in the Omarska, Keraterm and Trnopolje camps, in Bosniak towns and villages throughout the municipality, and, finally, on Mount Vlasic. The Trial Chamber held Dr. Stakic responsible for more than 1,500 killings and was able to identify by name 486 victims. Rapes, sexual assaults and beatings were committed at the camps and at least 20,000 non-Serbs either fled Prijedor or were deported

According to latest statistics 3173 people were killed in Prijedor in 1992, of those 102 were children, the youngest was a three month old baby, many of the children were killed from a close range. A total of 256 women were killed as well during the spring and summer of 1992, the most common killing grounds were the Concentration Camps in Omarska Keraterm and Trnopolje. The Dayton accords placed Prijedor Kozarac as well as Omarska Keraterm and Trnopolje with the entity of Republika Srpska. During the negations in Dayton in November 1995 the Bosnian delegation was forced to halt the Bosnian Army offensive which was in effect routing the Bosnian Serb Army (VRS) the offensive stopped before the Bosnian Army could reach Prijedor, and all chances of recapturing Prijedor as well as Omarska and Trnopolje disappeared of the table.

Today twenty one years after the “ethnic cleansing” and mass murder of several thousand of Prijedors non-Serb inhabitants, albeit mostly Bosniaks, there is not a single monument dedicated to non-Serb victims in urban parts of Prijedor municipality. Today there is however some 60 monuments dedicated to “the soldiers who died in the homeland war, 1991-1995” or that they “courageously died for the fatherland of Republika Srpska” According to Haris Subasic from the Ministry for Issues of Veterans and Disabled Veterans of the Defensive-Liberation War of Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) this is due to a culture of denial that shapes the past, present and future memories of the crimes against humanity committed. For example the local government in Prijedor does not allow construction of monuments for non-Serb victims in those areas where Concentration Camps were located, Omarska Trnopolje Keraterm. Excuses used are that it would incite “inter-ethnic hatred” or that “there must be a minimum consensus on it at state level” Bosnia and Herzegovina today has no laws prohibiting genocide denial and the denial of war crimes, most attempts at passing such laws have been obstructed by SNSD, the party of Milorad Dodik.

The most of offensive example of genocide denial in Prijedor and the institutionalized culture of denial that is widespread throughout Republika Srpska is a monument erected at the site of the former concentration camp Trnopolje by the Serb-dominated local government. “The monument for all Serb soldiers who were killed” was erected in close proximity to the infamous concentration camp. Images from Trnopolje together with images from Omarska of have become iconic, in august 1992 as the first reporters were allowed to enter the gulag of concentration camps set by the Bosnian Serbs in the Prijedor area, they broadcasted to the world, the men and women of the concentration camps who were subjected to physical as well as mental abuse on a daily bases, many of the prisoners both male and female were subjected to sexual abuse, murder was commonplace. A female prisoner from Omarska identified only as “J” told Helsinki Watch investigators:

 We saw corpses piled one on top of another…. The bodies eventually were gathered with a forklift and put onto trucks—usually two large trucks and a third, smaller truck. The trucks first would unload containers of food, and then the bodies would be loaded [on]…. This happened almost every day—sometimes there [were]…twenty or thirty—but usually there were more. Most of the deaths occurred as a result of beatings

(See: War Crimes in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Volume II, p. 103)

Ed Vulliamy of The Guardian was the first one in Omarska, describes his first meeting with prisoners of Omarska:

I don´t want to tell any lies, but I cannot tell the truth” says the young man emaciated, sunken-eyed and attacking his watery bean stew like a famished dog, his spindly hands shaking. The guards swinging their machine guns are watching and listening carefully. His name is Sabahudin Elezovic. “Let me eat my lunch first” he says “then I´ll talk” The stew in the aluminum bowl is gone within seconds, showed into his mouth with an old spoon clenched with difficulty by a rangy fist.

This is lunchtime at the Omarska concentration camp or “investigation center” run by the Bosnian Serb police for mainly Muslim internees near Prijedor. The prisoners are horribly thin raw bones; some are almost cadaverous with skin like parchment folded over their bones. Their faces are lantern-jawed and their eyes are haunted by the inimitable empty stare of the prisoner dumb with fear, who has no idea what is going to happen to him next. No one from the red cross the UN or the press has been this far inside the belly of the beast until the day we arrived at Omarska on Wednsday 5 august 1992

(Vulliamy: Seasons in Hell, 1994 Chapter Five, The Camps, Echoes of the Reich, page 98)

Trnopolje concentration camp like Omarska was set up by the Bosnian Serb military and police forces in the village of Trnopolje near Prijedor. Like Omarska the camp served as a prison camp for Bosniak s and Croats, and like Omarska many of the prisoners were subjected to physical and mental abuse. Many were also murdered. Trnopolje produced the most iconic image of the Bosnian genocide, the picture of emaciated prisoner Fikret Alic staring at the cameras behind the barb-wire fence.

Fikret Alic at Trnopolje august 1992
Fikret Alic at Trnopolje august 1992

No memorial has as of yet been erected to the victims of Trnopolje and Omarska, nor do survivors have the right to visit the former concentration camps when they choose, they are only granted access to the camps on the day of commemoration. Not that always happens, this year on May 25th survivor groups were not allowed to gather at the camp, they were not granted access to the camp by the local authorities. But that did not stop the survivors and their family members as well as family members of those that had lost loved ones in the camp. On May 26 about a hundred people gathered in front of the camp in order to commemorate the 21 years since the camps were first set up by the Bosnian Serb military and police forces. Something has however happened, staring last year a campaign under the name Stop Genocide Denial has been working to “to give a voice to victims of mass atrocities from around the world in their struggle for the truth, dignity and remembrance” as they put it. On 31th of May 2012 families of the victims of those killed in the Prijedor area gathered at the event called ‘White Ribbons Day’ the white ribbion, is symbolic, on May 31, 1992 the Bosnian Serb authorities in Prijedor issued a decree for all non-Serbs to mark their houses with white flags or sheets and to wear a white armband if they were to leave their houses.

The gathering had been banned at first by the mayor of Prijedor, Marko Pavic of the SDS, Radovan Karadzic former party. Pavic had expressed concern that the event would “undermine the town’s reputation”. Forgetting that the deaths of over 3000 of the towns citizens has yet to be honored in the town itself and the fact there was no statue or plaque anywhere to the 3173 dead civilians, men women and children. Pavic also objected to the use of the word “genocide” saying that the organizations were “politicizing” the commemoration. Obviously unaware that those that had lost their loved ones in the concentration camps had the right to call the commemoration whatever they wanted, Marko Pavic seemed totally also unaware of the fact that the ICTY had ruled that what had happened in Srebrenica was genocide, and that the International Court of Justice came to the same conclusion as well as the fact that courts in Germany had sentenced Serb paramilitaries for the crime of genocide in other places in Bosnia and Herzegovina. One of those convictions was upheld by the the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Pavic also seemed unaware that Milomir Stakic who had been the Vice-President of the Prijedor Municipal Assembly as a member of the Serbian Democratic Party, (SDS) was found guilty of murder, persecution, extermination and deportation, all crimes against humanity. Also there was no law in Bosnia and Herzegovina prohibiting victims and survivors from calling the commemoration of their fallen loved ones whatever they wanted. Sadly there is no law against genocide denial and denial of crimes against humanity either in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Though the gathering last year was relatively small, it had brought worldwide attention to the issue of genocide denial in Bosnia and the denial of crimes against humanity in Republika Srpska. The culture of denial has become institutionalized in Republika Srpska so much so that last year Amnesty International reported that the police in Prijedor had banned s march to commemorate the International Human Rights Day without giving any valid reason as to why they would do something like that. If the gathering in Prijedor last year was humble, the same cannot be said for the turn out this year, on May 31 hundreds of activists, from across Bosnia and Herzegovina, survivors and family members of the victims showed up at the town square in Prijedor. Bosnians from all across Bosnia had to show their support with citizens of Prijedor, the victims, the survivors and their families as the support from the world was pouring in. Marko Pavic true to form dismissed the fact Bosnians, now even across ethnic lines were starting to take a stand against genocide denial and the denial of war crimes and crimes against humanity. His responsse to the gathering of Bosnians in Prijedor was to dismiss it by calling it “nothing more then a gay pride parade” that kind of horrible homophobic remark shows the nature of the political scene in Republika Srpska, Pavic was simply trying win points with his racist, nationalist and above all homophobic constituance. For if the rights of victims of genocide and crimes agianst humanity rank low on the list of concerns in a Bosnia and Herzegovina imprisoned by Dayton, then the rights of the LGBT Community are non-existent. Sadly when it comes to the question of denying war crimes and genocide denial in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it does seem that Bosniaks have to face that struggle, despite positive signs from Prijedor for the time being anyway, more or less alone. Hopefully that will change in time.

When it comes to the ICTY, I have to admit to being a bit disillusioned to put it mildly, some have argued that after latest string of acquittals of high ranking officers by The Hague, most prominently Momcilo Perisic-Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic, that the legal record does not match the historical one. Well yes, sadly that is true. will say this; the ICTY has during its 20 years of existence compiled an enormous amount of documentation and above all evidence of who did what. The fact that the Trial Chamber could not convict those three men, does not mean that they are innocent, it means that the prosecutions case did not meet the current legal standards. Nor does it mean that crimes were not committed. However, when it comes to Stanisic and Simatovic, the reasoning of the court is astonishing, the standards set are ridiculosly high. In the case of Stanisic and Simatovic, as Eric Gordy points out; “The tormented reasoning of the tribunal’s 800-page verdict offers some fascinating reading: It affirms that crimes were committed and describes them in excruciating detail. It names the victims, names the perpetrators, and in most cases details the connections between the accused parties and the direct perpetrators. Then it declines to convict, on the ground that the evidence does not show that the support provided to the criminals was “specifically directed towards the commission of the crimes.”

One of the great achivments of the Perisic trial was that for the first time, we could see how the the Yugoslav Supreme Defense Council worked and those that were a part of it, including Momcilo Perisic, Zivota Panic, Blagoje Adzic, Momir Bulatovic, Dobrica Cosic, Radoje Kontic, as well as of course Slobodan Milosevic. We could also see how the support system created by the JNA and later VJ worked to enable the Bosnian Serb and Krajina Serb or “Croatian Serb” rebel armies to continiue fighting and that without the financial military and logistical support from Belgrade those two entities would crumble within weeks. They were in fact completely dependent on Belgrade and Serbia.

In most cases the paper trail leads to Knin, Pale, Belgrade and as we could recently see in the guilty verdicts of the Herceg Bosna six, to Zagreb as well, as Franjo Tudjman Janko Bobetko and Gojko Susak were all found to be guilty albeit posthumously of being a part of Joint Crminal Enterprise in regards to the crimes of the HVO and the Croatian Army in Herzegovina and central Bosnia.

History is written by historians, not by politicians. As I wrote above one of the great, if overlooked, achievements of the ICTY is the astonishing trove of documents and other evidence assembled by researchers and prosecutors. Now 20 years after the war in the former Yugoslavia there is a an abundance material on the breakup of Yugoslavia, some of it is good some poor and some of it great, above people like Tim Judah, Josip Glaurdic, Marko Attila Hoare, Roy Gutman, David Rhode, Christopher Hitchens, Ed Vulliamy, Michael A. Sells, Stjepan G. Mestrovic, David Rieff, Chuck Sudetic, Michael Libal, Brendan Simms and others have written extensively about the breakup of Yugoslavia and the war and genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Now it is up to us to honor the memory of the victims of the Bosnian genocide by fighting the deniers and revisionists, at every turn not only with the verdicts, of which there are many. Most of the political and military leadership of Republika Srpska have been found guilty of persecution, based on ethnic or religous ground, of murder, and genocide. People like Biljana Plavsic, Momcilo Krajisnik, Dragomir Milosevic Stanislav Galic, Mico Stanisic, Radislav Krstic Dusko Tadic, Milomir Stakic… We must also fight the deniers with the facts, with the truth. We must safeguard the memory of our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, uncles, grandfathers, cousins, friends, lovers, husbands, wifes. All those killed in Srebrenica, Prijedor, Visegrad, Vlasenica, Rudo, Mostar, Ljubuski, Sanski Most, Bjeljina, Brcko, Cajnicje, Rogatica, Stolac, Sarajevo, Kozarac, Bratunac, Foca, Ahmici, Omarska, Trnopolje…

Professor Reunald de la Brosse´s rapport on Milosevic´s political propaganda and the Plan to Create a State for all Serbs is split in five seperate parts. Here are all five parts:

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 part 5